Grow

Grow
Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton
Walker Books

Nicola Davies has a rare skill when it comes to explaining sometimes quite tricky concepts to young readers and Emily Sutton’s illustrations are always superb.

With the opening statement ‘All living things grow’, award-winning team Emily and Emma then explore for young readers, the mysteries of DNA, the genetic code that determines the characteristics of every plant and every animal including we humans.

First are examples of different speeds of growth ranging from the desert four o’clock plants that grow from seed to flower in ten days

to the guahog clams found in the chilly depths of the Arctic Ocean that take 500 years to grow to the size of the palm of a child’s hand. WOW!

The importance of how much things grow is considered next followed by another aspect of growth, that of change,

and that leads neatly into DNA.

We find out about its four bases and how they can be combined in different ways creating a genetic code pattern, comprising for we humans, 20,000 genes.

Everyone has a unique genetic code half of which comes from their biological father and half from the biological mother (identical twins however share a genetic code).

There’s follows a spread showing the relative closeness of the human genetic code to various plants and animals; another points out that thanks to DNA all living things are connected. DNA also provides a connection that can be traced right back to the beginning of life on Earth – awesome – and all on account of the fact that as Nicola concludes ‘all life has always been written in one language’.

This is just the kind of book I would have relished as a child; it will surely inspire as well as educate youngsters.

Buy for home and for KS2 primary classrooms.

Every Child a Song / Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Every Child a Song
Nicola Davies and Marc Martin
Wren & Rook

This book was written in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sensitive and thought-provokingly Nicola Davies uses the idea of every child having a song to explore some of the things contained in the 54 rights that all children should have.

Easily understood, her beautiful words highlight the right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to an education; the right to relax, play and participate in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities indoors and out, to be both an individual and part of a loving community.

Nicola’s is a song of love indeed and a vitally important one that reminds us all that there are still children whose access to these rights is limited by the chaos of hatred and war

yet still they are able to sing and to have their songs heard by people the entire world over.

Marc Martin’s illustrations don’t shy away from the darkness but the bright light of hope prevails as the final spreads show how by raising our collective voices we can make sure that ALL children, wherever they are, can sing their own song; a song that starts from the day they are born – a song of love, of joy and of freedom ‘–unique and tiny. Fragile. But never quite alone.’

Truly an inspiration to children everywhere.

Just now in the present difficult situation that are all share, think about what you can do at home with this book as your starting point.

Like the Moon Loves the Sky
Hena Khan and Saffa Khan
Chronicle Books

‘Inshallah you are all/ that is gentle and good // Inshallah you feel safe, / like all children should.’
These are the opening lines of Hena Khan’s lyrical text (each verse being based on a verse of the Quran) expressing new parents’ hopes for their tiny child to show gentleness, be safe, kind, reflective, to seek knowledge,

to stand strong, to embrace change and much more, prefacing each one with the “Inshallah” (in Arabic – if God wills it).
Debut illustrator Saffa Khan has created exquisite ink textured, digitally rendered scenes in rich, vibrant hues for every spread. I particularly like her carefully considered, inclusive one for ‘Inshallah you travel / to thrilling new places.’

Throughout, not only does she imbue the book with a sense of security, contentment and happiness, but also with hope and kindness, and feelings of awe and wonder,

perfectly complementing and extending the author’s over-arching tender, peaceful message of unconditional love.

This is a book that will resonate with people of all faiths and none, for as the author reminds us ‘Inshallah is used … to reflect the idea of a greater force or power beyond ourselves’.
Gorgeous!

Ariki and the Island of Wonders / Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Silent Songbirds

Ariki and the Island of Wonders
Nicola Davies, illustrated by Nicola Kinnear
Walker Books

Nicola Davies’s sequel to Ariki and the Giant Shark is equally rooted in island life, the natural world and the Pacific Ocean.

Strong-minded Ariki and her good friend Ipo, who live on Turtle Island, ignore the advice of Ariki’s guardian to learn about wave behaviour from a bowl of water and set sail on Sea Beauty. “We’ll be in trouble, ” says Ipo as they discover the wind is rather stronger than expected and Ariki has to agree.

It isn’t long though before there’s a storm brewing and it’s impossible to turn back: the only option, they realise, is to let the storm blow them where it will.

After several days without food and virtually nothing to drink, they encounter a wounded whale that has become separated from its family, which the children help. The whale then assists them by towing them towards an unfamiliar island that looks like paradise.

On the island they meet a strange man calling himself Crusoe McRobinson and learn of a dangerous creature the man calls “Dog”. There are in fact a number of these ‘dogs’ lurking and because of them the other island residents – humans and animal – as well as the two children, are in jeopardy.

Is there anything Ariki can do and if so will the two friends ever get back safely to Turtle Island?

Zoologlist story weaver, Nicola Davies cleverly entertains and educates at the same time in this gripping tale. Her affinity with the natural world shines through in her narrative with its vivid description of wildlife showing the interconnectness of human beings and the natural world.

To add to the magical mix, Nicola Kinner’s black and white illustrations perfectly capture the relationship between the human characters and nature.

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Silent Songbirds
Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosie Butcher
Oxford University Press

Combining magic and wonder with facts about birds is this latest story in Anne Booth’s series of chapter books for young readers that began when its main protagonist, Maya was made keeper of a very special colouring book that could draw her into the Magical Kingdom of Birds.

The picture that appears to draw her to the Kingdom (where in addition to being a schoolgirl she is the Keeper of the Book) in this adventure is this one.

Instead of the usual focus on one particular kind of bird, songbirds from many parts of the world are featured; the reason being there’s to be a special singing gala so her friend Willow tells Maya. But can they really trust Willow’s wicked Uncle, Lord Astor, who claims to have become a reformed character wanting only to bring everyone together in friendship?

Of course not: he has set his sights on stealing the songs of all the participants in the event and using them for his own nefarious purposes.

Maya certainly has a big problem on her hands and she also has to face up to singing in her school concert if she succeeds in saving the songbirds.

Another exciting episode, with Rosie Butcher’s enchanting black and white illustrations, this is certain to excite Maya’s established fans and capture some new enthusiasts for the series too.
(The final pages contain fascinating facts on the real birds that inspired the story, plus fun things to make and do as well as additional information about the plight of endangered Indonesian songbirds).

Hummingbird

Hummingbird
Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray
Walker Books

Nicola Davies is a champion of wildlife; and the creature she has chosen here is a tiny one, smaller than a thumb and lighter than a penny, the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Using the framework of the loving relationship between a Mexican grandmother and her granddaughter, we experience the migration pattern of such birds that are soon to depart, bound for the north, perhaps as the grandmother tells the child, “they’ll visit you in New York City?”
Seated in her Grandmother’s lap, the girl is asked to “Keep still” as they proffer bowls of water to the birds; and come they do ‘Tz-unun! Tz-unun!’ flashing their feathers and beating their wings.

We then follow the birds’ migration route over several double spreads all the way from over the Gulf of Mexico,

through the USA and all the way to Canada. And there they set up home and later in the summer,

a little girl walking towards the park spies on the grassy verge, evidence of ‘a visitor from Granny’s garden’.

The days get shorter and it’s time once more for the hummingbirds to fly south though not all will make it safely to their destination. Granny however is anticipating their arrival as she sits in her garden reading a special letter from her granddaughter now far away, while in her lap is a tiny eggshell wrapped in cotton wool and a newspaper cutting telling of hummingbirds nesting in Central Park for the first time.

Jane Ray’s, stunning – as jewel-like as her subjects – detailed watercolour pictures almost vibrate with the Tz-unun! Tz-unun! of the hummingbirds’ wings, while tiny lines in her illustrations inject movement into the flight path of their long journey, 3000 kilometres northwards, and back.
Dropped into the spreads are such facts as what hummingbirds feed on; their nest size, and other details of their journey; and there’s a final page on which Nicola explains in detail how ornithologists have ringed and tracked hummingbirds over the years. I was intrigued to learn that they can live to be nine years old – incredible!

Altogether a fascinating book.

A Boy’s Best Friend / The Mountain Lamb

These are books five and six in Nicola and Cathy’s Country Tales short fiction series about young people growing up in a rural environment, published by Graffeg who kindly sent them for review.

A Boy’s Best Friend
The Mountain Lamb
Nicola Davies, illustrated by Cathy Fisher

A Boy’s Best Friend starts with young Clinton reluctant to leave his tropical island home, his gran and his fisherman Uncle Cecil to join his mother in London where she’s lived for five years. He feels anxious about meeting his step-father, eager to meet new little sister and very unhappy at the prospect of having to leave behind his much loved dog, Rufus.

But leave the island he does arriving in England as spring approaches. At first, despite the family’s best efforts, he feels lost and as though all the light has been leeched from him in this chill, drear place called London.

Then comes news of a school trip by minibus to a castle in Kent and despite there not being the intended farm visit, Clinton joins the party. But when the minibus meets with an accident and ends up partly in a ditch, Clinton takes the opportunity to help an old man, David with his stampeding cows, scared by the crash.

From then on, despite being in big trouble at school and at home for running off after the accident, things start to look brighter for young Clinton who readily takes up the farmer’s subsequent offer to visit his farm and lend a hand.

Beautifully told and full of warmth, Nicola’s short tale of love, change and adjusting to a new life, will speak to everyone, especially those who have had to leave much of what they love to start a new life elsewhere. Cathy Fisher’s delicately worked black, white and grey illustrations further add to the atmosphere of the telling.

Young Lolly in The Mountain Lamb is faced with tremendous challenges too. Her mother has died and now Lolly lives on a sheep farm with her grandparents. It’s lambing time and up on the moor, she finds an orphaned baby lamb so small it fits inside the woolly hat she uses to carry it home.

Fearing that it won’t live through the night, Lolly is surprised to hear its tiny bleat next morning at breakfast time: seemingly the lamb wants feeding. Lolly decides to call it Susan after her mother.

Grandpa encourages the girl to take responsibility for rearing the little creature. She rapidly forms at attachment to it, knowing though that it will eventually have to become part of the flock.

After months of not leaving the farm and its surroundings, it’s time for Lolly to return to school but fog causes Gran to abort the journey and they go back to the farm.

Time passes with Lolly staying back rearing the lamb and helping her grandparents indoors and out. One day Susan goes missing and despite a blizzard, Lolly embarks on a perilous search. Is she to meet a fate similar to her mother whom we learn had died in an accident on a Himalayan climb?

Happily not, for her Gran is experienced in Mountain Rescue.

The lost lamb makes its own way safely back and finally Lolly returns to school after a long, hard but rewarding few months.

This tale of courage and love is potent and moving throughout; I couldn’t put it down.

The Secret of the Egg / Amazing Animal Babies

The Secret of the Egg
Nicola Davies and Abbie Cameron
Graffeg

What a cracking book this is; the first one I’ve seen in this series by zoologist, poet and author, Nicola Davies and illustrator Abbie Cameron.

Through a highly engaging rhyming narrative, Nicola introduces children to animal eggs of all shapes and sizes;

eggs that might be found in puddles or high in a tree; those you might have to dig for, or search in the sea or pond to discover. There are reptiles’ eggs, birds’ eggs, amphibians’ eggs, fishes’ eggs, even mammalian eggs.

With the exception of the platypus, none of the creatures featured are named so identifying whose eggs are whose is left to Abbie Cameron’s richly detailed, painterly pictures so adult assistance or some additional research may be needed.

This would make a great way to introduce a ‘new life’ topic to young children.

Amazing Animal Babies
Aina Bestard
Thames & Hudson

Animals large and animals small, from various parts of the world feature in Aina Bestard’s book.
Using as many as six intricately detailed transparent overlays the author/illustrator documents in words and aptly coloured visual images, how each animal produces and rears its young.

Herein readers will discover that the penguin parents, as well as the other members of a penguin colony play a part in the rearing of penguin chicks but it’s the Dad penguin that keeps the egg warm while Mum penguin goes off searching the ocean for food. After a chick is hatched however, both parents take turns to find food until their little one can care for itself.

In contrast, having found a safe place to lay her eggs, a mother tortoise leaves them alone to hatch and feed on the surrounding vegetation.

Once they’re laid it’s the father seahorse that takes care of the eggs inside his pouch, whereas with the kangaroo, the baby kangaroo is kept safe in its mother’s pouch.

The monarch butterfly and the common toad never meet their parents and grow up entirely on their own.

The final animal, the blue whale is reared on its mother’s milk, sometimes with the help of other whales.

The illustrations are exquisite and the narrative chatty: prepare to be amazed as you turn the pages of this fascinating book.

A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea
Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton
Walker Books

Award winning team Davies and Sutton present a fine, diverse collection of sea related poems that subtly blend information within.
Starting down by the shore readers can experience a paddle, sandcastle building, watch a flock of seagulls, have a spending spree on the pier, ride a wave, become creative with shells and pebbles, or stop still and watch a Shore Crab:

‘Delicate! / As a dancer, / The crab sidesteps / To a dead-fish dinner. / Wary! / Periscope eyes up, watching. / Its big claws pinch tiny scraps / And pass them to its busy mouth. / Dainty! / Like a giant eating fairy cakes.’

I love that observation.

Equally beautiful, from the Journeys section, is Star School wherein, ‘The old man draws the night sky out in pebbles / to teach his grandson the pattern of stars. / They will steer his path across the ocean / like stepping stones laid out in the sky, / They’ll steer him safe to tiny islands, / green stars lost in seas of blue.’

I’ve never been a particular lover of beaches and the sea other than in tropical climes, but Nicola Davies’ superb word pictures in tandem with Emily Sutton’s remarkable watercolours have made me want to head to the nearest coast and look anew at those seagulls, limpets, shells and ‘bits of beauty that are pebbles.’
I know I’ll have to travel a bit further in search of puffins though, and I can wait a few more months to watch fishermen on palm-clad shores, perhaps in Kerala or Goa, tossing their nets ‘spider web’ like, endeavouring to ‘catch just enough fish for dinner’.
This is an outstanding and wondrous evocation of the sea – beside, upon, above and beneath –

‘A festival of flashlight fish! Off-on, off-on. It’s a morse code fiesta of living lanterns.

for every book collection, be that at home or in school. A ‘First Book of the Sea‘ it might be, but this is one that will go on being appreciated over and over and …

The Day War Came

The Day War Came
Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb
Walker Books

I came back home after a few days away to find this book waiting; it was the day we heard about the egregious separation of children from their parents at the US border, so it was especially moving. It is also Refugee Week as I read/write this – even more timely and heartbreakingly pertinent, especially as I think of my Syrian friends who fled their home country from war a couple of years ago and are now happy and their two children loving their primary school in Stroud. No lack of chairs there.

Nicola Davies wrote the text, a poem, as a response to her anger at our government’s refusal to allow 3000 refugee children to enter the UK in 2016. A poem that began the 3000 chairs campaign for which artists contributed pictures of chairs, symbolic of a seat in a classroom, education, kindness and the hope of a future.

For those who didn’t read the poem when it was published in the Guardian, it’s a spare text narrated by a little girl from a country, perhaps Syria, blighted by war whose day starts normally – breakfast with her family and then school where in the morning, she learns about volcanoes, draws a picture of a bird and sings a song of tadpoles.

After lunch though comes war, destroying her school, her home, her town,

leaving her alone, bloody and tattered.

Somehow she makes it to a boat and thence to a beach and then to a camp. “But war had followed me. / it was underneath my skin, / behind my eyes, / and in my dreams. / It had taken possession of my heart,” she says.

Nicola Davies is a fine weaver of words; her text is heart-wrenchingly powerful and ultimately, redemptive – having initially been turned away from a school classroom because there was no chair for her, one is supplied by a little boy,

whose friends do likewise … as the children walk together, “Pushing / back the war / with every step.”

Rebecca Cobb has done an outstanding job with the illustrations. Her watercolour, crayon and pastel pictures – scenes of destruction, flight and desolation, all too familiar to us from TV news bulletins, have a heightened poignancy so rendered, and are all the more powerful viewed together with her images of normal life in home, street and classroom.
All her characters are incredibly expressive both facially and in their body language, and the little girl is the very embodiment of the poem’s narrator.

A must read book for anyone who values humanity.

£1 from every copy of the book sold will go to the HelpRefugees charity.

The Variety of Life

The Variety of Life
Nicola Davies and Lorna Scobie
Hodder Children’s Books

Here’s a large format book for young readers to dip in and out of, time and again, especially those who like animals of one kind or another and the wider biodiversity of our planet.

The author and zoologist, Nicola Davies explores the huge diversity of the natural world, providing information about the chosen subjects, one per double spread – a short introductory paragraph to each group and a sentence or two about those depicted (their food, their habits and their habitats) together with the common name, the scientific (Latin) name, and if they happen to number among the endangered species, a black star. It’s alarming to see for instance, that of the eight species of bear, six are threatened with extinction.

Accessibly presented are a large variety of animals big and small, and some plants – grasses and trees and finally, representing the fungi are mushrooms.

Some of the numbers of animal species are questionable though: for instance the number given on the sheep page is 6 species but 9 are illustrated on the relevant spread.

Lorna Scobie’s illustrations of the animal kingdom in particular, are impressionistic rather than strictly scientific. Nonetheless, with their googly eyes, the creatures – from butterflies to bats and sheep to slugs –

have an irresistible child appeal embodying their essential characteristics, and are recognisable if not exactly in the field guide class.

Certainly this thoroughly enjoyable book offers opportunities to take pleasure in, to compare and contrast; and should encourage young readers to respect and treasure the world’s biodiversity and do all they can to preserve and conserve it.

10 Reasons to Love: an Elephant / a Turtle & Dolphin Baby

10 Reasons to Love an Elephant
10 Reasons to Love a Turtle

Catherine Barr and Hanako Clulow
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Two titles published in collaboration with the Natural History Museum focus on what makes the particular animal special.
Each is sandwiched between two sturdy covers with a die cut of the animal through the front one and a double spread is devoted to each reason.
I didn’t need any persuasion to love elephants mainly because of frequent encounters with the Asian variety on my numerous visits to India. (I’ve never seen any with googly eyes however.) In addition to the reason that gives each spread its title, there is plenty more to enjoy. I was fascinated to learn that elephants ‘wrap their trucks around each other in warm greetings’ and that ‘they understand how other elephants feel.’ Here for example one can see a beautiful Indian swallowtail butterfly, a common rose butterfly and a common bluebottle butterfly among the flora.

Children will I’m sure be amused to learn that forest elephants eat seeds that pass through their bodies and out in their poo, and then the seeds start growing in their dung making them “good gardeners’ for their role in seed dispersal. Equally they might, having read the ‘Show You Love an Elephant’ badge, want to look online and find how to buy some paper made from recycled elephant poo.
Ecologist, Catherine Barr’s text is very reader friendly and Hanako Clulow’s illustrations offer plenty to observe and discuss.
10 Reasons to love a Turtle features the seven different sea turtle species and interestingly, ‘gardening’ features herein too,

with sea turtles acting like ‘underwater lawn movers’ grazing on the seagrass and keeping it the appropriate length for fish, crabs and seahorses to make their homes in.
At the end of the book, readers are reminded of the threat that pollution, fishing and hunting pose to these gentle animals.
With their environmental focus, these would be worthwhile additions to classroom libraries; as well as for interested individuals, who it is hoped, might turn into conservationists.

Dolphin Baby
Nicola Davies and Brita Granström
Walker Books
‘Tail first, head last, Dolphin POPS out into the blue.’ What could be a more engaging way to start a book of narrative non-fiction? But then this is zoologist Nicola Davies writing and she knows just how to grab the attention of young readers and listeners and keep them entranced throughout.
Here, through the story of Dolphin and Mum, she describes the first six months of a baby calf’s life as it learns to feed, to acquaint itself with and respond to her call, and to explore its world playing, making friends …

and all the while he’s growing and developing his very own whistle to communicate that he has at six months old, caught his very first fish.
The text uses two fonts: the large provides the narrative with additional facts given in smaller italics; and the final spread reminds readers that dolphins need protecting from pollution, from over-fishing and from the careless use of fishing nets.
Brita Granström’s superb acrylic illustrations grace every spread helping to make the book a winner for both early years and primary school audiences.

I’ve signed the charter  

King of the Sky

King of the Sky
Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin
Walker Books
Peter is starting a new life in a new country and what he feels overwhelmingly is a sense of disorientation and disconnection. Only old Mr Evans’ pigeons bring him any reminders of his former, Italian home.

Those pigeons are Mr Evans’ pride and joy, his raison d’être almost, after a life spent underground in the mines, a life that has left him with a manner of speaking sufficiently soft and slow for the boy narrator to comprehend.
There is one pigeon in particular, so Mr Evans says, that he’s training to be a champ. This pigeon he gives to Peter who names him “Re del cielo! King of the Sky!” Together the two share in the training, not only of Peter’s bird, but the entire flock; but after each flight, Peter’s bird with its milk-white head, is always the last to return. Nevertheless the old man continues to assure the lad of its winning potential. “Just you wait and see!” he’d say.
As the old man weakens, Peter takes over the whole training regime and eventually Mr Evans gives him an entry form for a race – a race of over a thousand miles back home from Rome where his pigeon is sent by train.
With the bird duly dispatched and with it Peter thinks, a part of his own heart, the wait is on.

For two days and nights Peter worries and waits, but of his special bird there is no sign. Could the aroma of vanilla ice-cream, and those sunlit squares with fountains playing have made him stay? From his bed, Mr Evans is reassuring, sending Peter straight back outside; and eventually through clouds …

Not only is the pigeon home at last, but Peter too, finally knows something very important …
Drawing on the history of South Wales, when large numbers of immigrants came from Italy early in the last century, Nicola Davies tells a poignant tale of friendship and love, of displacement and loss, of hope and home. Powerfully affecting, eloquent and ultimately elevating, her compelling text has, as with The Promise, its perfect illustrator in Laura Carlin. She is as softly spoken as Mr Evans, her pictures beautifully evoking the smoky, mining community setting. The skyscapes of pit-head chimneys, smoke and surrounding hills, and the pigeons in flight have a mesmeric haunting quality.
A truly wonderful book that will appeal to all ages.

I’ve signed the charter  

Lots: the Diversity of Life on Earth

Lots
Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton
Walker Books
Subtitled ‘The Diversity of Life on Earth’ the enchanting large-sized book looks at biodiversity and interdependence on our planet.
The ‘LOTS’ herein encompasses over a hundred different animals as well as numerous plants and one enthusiastic little girl narrator.

By giving voice to the child, Nicola Davies cleverly explains what would otherwise be an abstruse topic in words that pre-school and KS1 age children can engage with and enjoy.
We visit a variety of locations from deserts to tropical islands; and zoom right in to such microbial habitats as beneath the feathers of birds, on the backs of lichen beetles

and even boiling volcanic pools. Counting all the different kinds of flora and fauna is far from easy on account of sheer numbers; but sometimes it’s a very difficult task due in part to the comparative inaccessibility of particular habitats – the tops of tall jungle trees or the bottom of the coldest seas for instance. But also there’s the fact that some young creatures – the Queen Angelfish – for one, look quite different from the adult; or alternatively things that look virtually identical are entirely different species such as here:

The Viceroy Butterfly and the Monarch look almost identical

All this is explained in a straightforward narrative that as well as providing youngsters with a wealth of information, is likely to engender awe and wonder in the ‘almost two million different kinds of living things’ already identified; and the millions that probably are yet to be found.
In the three final spreads, crucial ideas about extinction and the importance of preservation of living things are introduced, leaving readers much food for thought about the vital stewardship role humans have in the whole scheme of things.
This follow up to Tiny also has wonderful detailed, painterly illustrations by Emily Sutton. A must for primary school classroom collections and family bookshelves.

I’ve signed the charter 

Amazing Information Books

DSCN4886 (800x600)

Nina (who does like snakes) enjoying the book.

I Don’t Like Snakes
Nicola Davies and Luciano Lozano
Walker Books
On a visit to Kerala (India) a couple of years back I was beguiled by the resident naturalist into showing the local housekeeping staff that there was nothing to fear from the snakes that were found in the grounds and occasionally found their way into the guest cottages. There I was inwardly quaking and having what looked to me a huge snake dangled about my person.

shibu bhaskar (115) - Copy (536x800)

So, the girl narrator of this wonderful orphidiological extravaganza has my sympathies when she declares, “I really, really, REALLY don’t like snakes!” to her incredulous family members who immediately counter her statement with “WHY?
Every reason she proffers is met with an informative rejoinder that serves to weaken her case; and it isn’t long before her protestations about slithering, icky, slimy skin or flicky tongue have fueled her interest in their sidewinding, twining or flying methods of locomotion, their wonderful mosaic patterned, renewable skins

DSCN4874 (800x600)

and the scent-smelling organ used in locating their prey. Oh and those staring eyes are so informative about their hunting habits too.

DSCN4875 (800x600)

We really know she’s been won over however, when having turned to a large book, our narrator informs her brother about the reproductive habits of snakes

DSCN4876 (800x600)

and finally says – well what do you think?
My subsequent real-life experiences with snakes certainly haven’t won me round but I have to admit that the book has gone some way towards so doing. Davies’ chatty, gently humorous narrative style and Luciano Lozano’s superb illustrations of both human and reptilian characters work so well together. The combination of almost cartoon-like humans and zoologically accurate snake drawings together with the differing type-faces used for the text is enormously effective.A must buy for budding zoologists and for the primary school library.

DSCN4827 (800x600)

Surprising Sharks
Nicola Davies and James Croft
Walker Books pbk
Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, the smallest being not much larger than a bar of chocolate and comparatively few of them have attacked humans. And, did you know that ‘Sand tiger sharks give birth to just two live young— which is all that’s left after those two have eaten the other six babies in their mother’s belly.’
These are just a few of the interesting facts youngsters can discover between the covers of this highly readable, gently humorous re-issue.

DSCN4825 (800x600)

Dino-Dinners
Mick Manning and Brita Granström
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books pbk
This inviting book, published in association with the Natural History Museum, features ten dinosaurs, each having a double spread within which the creature – illustrated in watercolour- introduces itself with a rhyme telling of its dietary habits alongside which is an inset of additional information including name pronunciation, size and geological dating. One of the Brachiosaurus spreads (it has two because it’s so long) includes details about its poo too;

DSCN4824 (800x600)

I didn’t know that fossil poos are called coprolites before I read it here. The book also includes a time line and glossary. A fascinating book for young addicts and one that will likely kindle an interest in those new to the subject.
Equally fascinating and informative and from the same team is

DSCN4826 (800x600)

Woolly Mammoth
In this one, mammoth narrator, gentle giant and ‘veggie warrior with bull-neck power’ takes readers back to the ice-age when these huge shaggy beasts roamed free, sometimes hunted by hungry wolves, bears or hyenas and sometimes by humans.
Both titles would make excellent additions to a family or primary school collection.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

Nature Within, Nature Without

A First Book of Nature
Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld
Walker Books pbk
The “Rrrrruurrrrp. Rrrrruuurp. Rrrrruuup.” of frogs in the pond, the making of compost,

DSCN2143

the sunlight shining through the raindrops in spring; the summertime buzzing of bees in the sleepy sunshine and the trickling tide creeping into rockpools; the floating, swirling leaves of autumn and the silver sea of spiderlings;

DSCN2144

the naked winter trees and the show of stars on a cold night: all these and much, much more can be found in this truly stunning, lyrical book. So accurately does it capture the experiences – visual and aural – of a child’s journey through and interactions with  the seasons, be they in the city, countryside or by the sea that it makes the reader – this one certainly – see, hear and smell those experiences too.

Without a sound the flowers call out.
They shout to insects with their colours, …
Just here is where you’ll
Find the nectar.’

Here, Nicola Davies, (also a zoologist) makes us use our ears to experience, what we usually see.

DSCN2146

Mark Hearld uses a variety of materials and techniques in the illustrations making every page a joy to behold. His ‘Nesting’ has real straw pieces both in the beak of the bird and the nest she’s constructing, and the birds’ plumage is made up of a variety of printed papers;

DSCN2142

beautifully child-like in keeping with the book as whole experience and in its seeming simplicity, not unlike things I’ve watched young children create.
So, read the book, buy the book, share the book,

DSCN2086

give the book; do all of these but most importantly, go outside, preferably with children (or as a child) and LOOK, LISTEN and SMELL the natural world in all its glory. DISCOVER ANEW and WONDER …
There’s a veritable goldmine waiting to be found both within these pages and without …

DSCN2145

Buy from Amazon
Find and buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch