Wonderful Wildlife

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It Starts With a Seed
Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber
Words & Pictures
Sometimes I open a parcel and just know I’m going to love a book before I’ve even got inside the cover. Such a one is this and as the title says It Starts With a Seed – a sycamore seed.
In this gorgeous book Laura Knowles’ rhyming narrative takes us on a journey – a journey through days, weeks, months, seasons and years as we follow the growth of that seed from the time it falls to earth right through until it’s a mature tree – fully formed with its own ecosystem. Jenny Webber’s delicate, detailed illustrations show every stage of the tree’s development from seedling …

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to sapling to the ‘leaf-laden, bark-bound arboreal home’ to the plethora of insects, birds and mammals that live therein.

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What I love so much about this book though is the sense of awe and wonder it’s likely to engender in those who read or listen to its lyrical words and pore over its painterly portrayals of the natural world. Such a superb way to embody a fair amount of information and the whole narrative is presented again on the front of a gatefold finale that opens to show seasonal changes to the leaf and flower and provide additional information such as ‘A sycamore’s small flowers grown in clusters known as racemes’ and ‘A sycamore can grow 35 metres tall’ – wow! And all from one tiny seed.
A book to buy and to keep, a book to share and a book to give: it’s perfect for autumnal reading but equally, it’s one to be returned to often, at home or in the classroom.
Laura Knowles has also has co-written

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British Wildlife
Matthew Morgan & Laura Knowles
QED
Essentially this is a visual introduction to some of the riches of the natural world to be found in the British Isles from frogs to fruits …

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and fishes to fungi.

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Illuminature
Rachel Williams and Carnovsky
Wide Eyed Editions
This is an awesome look at over 180 animals and the plethora of plants that inhabit ten of the world’s very different environments from the Congo Rainforest to Loch Lomond and from the Californian Redwood Forest to the Ganges River Basin.

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Awesome because, thanks to the three-coloured lens (included in a pocket at the front of the book) readers are able to get three different views. Look through the red lens and you see the diurnal animals, the blue lens will show nocturnal and crepuscular creatures and the green lens reveals each habitat’s plant life.
Each habitat is allocated six pages – two ‘viewing’ spreads, one giving key facts about the place and a textless “observation deck’ …

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followed by a black and white one –

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a ‘species guide’ that provides more detailed information on the particular animals featured in the coloured scenes. I foresee squabbles arising over this one.

Environmental Concerns

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The Tree
Neal Layton
Walker Books
There stands a tree – tall and proud – a conifer that’s home to fledglings in a nest, a squirrel family, an owl one and amidst its roots, a family of rabbits. Beside the tree stands a FOR SALE board.
Then come a man and woman, also intent on making a home. The work begins …

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and halts suddenly –

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Tears are shed. Then, it’s back to the drawing board …

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and after a whole lot of measuring, hefting, hammering and painting, the result is …

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Like the humans in this seemingly simple book, Neal Layton’s fable wields a lot of power. In just fifty words and a sequence of gently humorous illustrations, he delivers a vital message about the importance of humans and animals living together and sharing.
This one delivers on so many levels: In addition to sharing it with young (and not so young listeners), I suggest giving a copy to those developers who pay scant regard to the destruction of natural habitats when drawing up and executing their plans.
In addition, it’s a perfect learning to read book that blows mindlessly boring reading schemes right out of the water.

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Where’s the Starfish?
Barroux
Egmont
See the whale – an enormous one and the brightly coloured fish – a whole multitude of them; then there’s the Starfish, the Jellyfish and the Clownfish.

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Can you spot them? Keep turning the pages and you’ll notice something else starting to appear, something undesirable and alien to the ocean. The fish appear somewhat puzzled but turn over again; the rubbish pile has grown and Starfish, Jellyfish and Clownfish are slightly easier to spy.
On the next few spreads larger rubbish items appear – car parts, washing machines, a fridge, TVs, microwaves– all evidence of our thoughtless, throwaway society; but the fish numbers have declined significantly and it’s easier still to spot our three friends.

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Finally whale cannot take it any longer and taking matters into his own hands – or rather – snout – he takes revenge in an altogether satisfying manner.

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Work out for your self – or better, get the book and see for yourself – what happens hereafter …
This, like Where’s the Elephant? is a an enormously effective and affecting lesson on how we harm our precious natural environment: the conservation message is the same though the setting of the story is entirely different.

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