What On Earth? Birds / Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?/ Do Tigers Stay Up Late?


What On Earth? Birds

Mike Unwin and Pau Morgan
QED

Natural history writer Mike Unwin and illustrator Pau Morgan turn their attention to birds for the latest book in this excellent What On Earth? series.

In its usual way it’s packed with information and practical ideas that include things to make and do including the occasional experiment, all presented in a highly visual manner with every spread using the space alluringly in a manner somewhat akin to a comic.

As well as bird facts there are poems (Tennyson’s The Eagle and Lear’s There was an old man with a beard’) along with an invitation to readers to write a bird poem of their own. On the literary side too is ‘The king of the birds’ a story based on an old Celtic folk tale, which might also inspire story writing by readers.

You may want to try dancing like a bird;

or perhaps get outdoors and listen to some birdsong, even catching the dawn chorus if you’re up early enough.

The book is divided into four sections: What is a bird?; Bird food; Bird life and behaviour and Enjoying birds, and very page turn brings something to excite, or fascinate young readers.

Offering a great way to discover things avian in all kinds of interesting ways, the book concludes with a glossary and an index.

Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?
Do Tigers Stay Up Late?

Mary Kay Carson
Sterling

Splendid photographs and sequences of facts in response to a series of introductory questions – one per page (or occasionally spread) – present the essentials relating to two very different, but both predatory, animals.

No, sharks do not have bones; their skeletons are cartilaginous (a fact I remember well from my early days of studying zoology); and they have both skin and scales. Did you know people once used dried sharkskin as sandpaper? Or that adult sharks ‘don’t do the parenting thing’? Rather shark pups look after themselves.

And contrary to popular belief, only around six humans are killed by sharks in a year.

So it is with tigers: these creatures tend to avoid humans, their towns and farms, although it’s humans that are responsible for tigers being endangered with less than 4,000 roaming wild now, more than half their number being found in India.

I was fascinated to read that no two tigers have identical skin stripes, that a tiger’s skin is striped as well as its fur, and that tigers can swim for miles.

Unsurprisingly tigers don’t purr, growling, grunting and roaring are their ways of communicating.

Both books offer a fun and easy way to get to know something about two of the world’s most iconic creatures; and each has as part of the back matter, information about helping to protect the animals in question, some useful related vocabulary and an index.

Out and About: Mama is it Summer yet? / What on Earth? Trees / Caterpillar to Butterfly

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?
Nikki McClure
Abrams Appleseed

In this board book, a small boy looking through the window asks “Mama, is it summer yet?

His mother’s response explains that it is imminent for the leaf buds are swelling, the animals building nests and the earth is soft and ready for planting, swallows are singing, baby animals have hatched

and trees are blossoming. Very soon, when the berries have ripened in the warm sun – then summer will be well and truly with them.

How fortunate is the infant to have a loving parent who take time to explain all this rather than merely giving a single word reply to her child’s repeated question.

Beautifully designed and with wonderful paper-cut illustrations, predominantly black and white set against a cream background, but with a single contrasting colour on each spread, both visuals and words capture the natural changes while also showing the close bond between mother and child.

What On Earth? Trees
Kevin Warwick and Pau Morgan
QED

Environmental scientist and tree expert Kevin Warwick joins forces with illustrator Pau Morgan in this new addition to the What on Earth? series and as with previous titles it successfully adopts a cross curricular approach with a mix of information spreads, poetry, a plethora of things to do both scientific and arty; there’s even a story about how the Douglas fir came to look the way it does.

In short, this is a great way to encourage children to go outside and connect with nature, invitingly illustrated by Pau Morgan.

Caterpillar to Butterfly
Francis Barry
Walker Books

An attractive fold out, and find out about the life cycle of the swallowtail butterfly is told in a rhyming narrative and illustrated with brightly coloured, circular pages. These unfold to reveal each stage from tiny hatching caterpillar, through to ‘amazing butterfly’. We see the caterpillar munching, growing, shedding its skin, growing some more, then spinning a thread, forming a chrysalis and then after weeks of internal change, emerging as a stunningly beautiful adult.

The design, a big hit with small children, follows the same format as Barry’s Big Yellow Sunflower and Little Green Frogs.

Foundation stage teachers, this is one to add to your minibeast topic box.

Information Briefing:Bees, Gardening & Cities

What on Earth? Bees
Andrea Quigley and Paulina Morgan
QED
The author and illustrator of the latest in the ‘What On Earth?’ series offer a cross-curricular approach to a fascinating and vitally important insect, the bee.
It’s packed with fascinating information, interesting things to investigate, art and craft activities, poems, stories – I had a good laugh over the folk tale from Thailand telling ‘When bees were friends with elephants’; there’s even a recipe for delicious honey flapjacks – mmm!
Most pertinent though, since our native bees are under threat, are the projects which aim to increase potential nesting spots: for bumble bees ‘Make a bumble bee ‘n’ bee’; and ‘Build a solitary bee home’ for bees such as the leafcutter and mason bees to nest in.
Although each spread is chock full of information, the presentation with copious bright, attractive and sometimes amusing, illustrations, speech bubbles and factual snippets on bold colour blocks is never overwhelming.

This stylish book is certainly worth adding to a family book collection or primary school topic box.

The Children’s Garden
Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan
Little Bigfoot
This appealing story inspired by a real community garden for children in Seattle is a debut book for both author and illustrator.
A sign on the gate welcomes readers in to ‘listen, see, smell, touch – even taste’
and to read this book really does feel like a multi-sensory experience.
We start with the deep, dark soil, ‘rich with rotted grass, apple peels and onion skins,’ into which the children dig and then scatter their seeds. They pat, water …

and weed and soon are rewarded by the appearance of tiny sprouting plants.
It’s not long before the whole space is filled with a profusion of ‘tomato clusters’, ‘sunflower stands’, ‘green bean tents’, ‘strawberry clusters’ and more.

Peppermint to smell and chew.

A rich reward for their labours but also a place to have fun and to relax.

Imaginative language and bold, bright illustrations and splendid seed packet endpapers make this portrait of a bountiful co-operative gardening project a delight.
I’d like to think it will inspire adults to help youngsters seek out similar local projects or failing that, contemplate starting such an enterprise for children in their own neighbourhood.

In Focus: Cities
Libby Walden et al.
360 Degrees
You can be a globetrotter without moving from your sofa in what is very much a bits and pieces look at ten of the world’s most iconic cities – their culture, their character and their civilisations – landmarks and artefacts of cultures ancient and modern (largely hidden beneath the gate fold flaps).
Starting with New York, and encompassing Tokyo,



Paris, Rome, Moscow, Istanbul, Sydney, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro and London, each of the destinations has a different illustrator, ensuring that the diversity of the cities is heightened.
The author manages to pack a great deal of information into each fold-out spread so that readers will find themselves becoming engrossed in such unlikely topics as tulips and Turkish delight (Istanbul), or catacombs and cancan dancing (Paris).
An appetite whetter and an engrossing one at that!

I’ve signed the charter