Nature in Focus – Home / Seasons

Here are two books from Little Tiger that focus on nature and the changing seasons

Home
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup

‘All of us need a place to rest – / A cave, a warren, a pond, a nest … // Wherever we may choose to roam, / We need a place to call our home.” So says Patricia Hegarty’s introduction to this look at the forest that is home to all kinds of creatures large and small.
In the company of little bear, we visit a variety of animal homes starting with the cub and her family’s cave, dark and deep.

With the advent of spring, the cub ventures out watched by an owl in her tree. He visits the place where squirrels are gathering leaves for their drey; beavers are also building a shelter; a bird is busy nest building.

Further afield salmon spawn in the glistening river, multitudes of minibeasts are hard at work, and underground rabbits are safe in their warren.

As night begins to fall, a pack of wolves begin to prowl, hunting for food; while a flock of arctic terns make ready to begin their long journey before another winter sets in.

Finally as the cold arrives, it’s time for little bear and his family to hibernate ‘til spring comes round once more.

In her lyrical text Patricia takes us through the changing seasons and to the various animal homes. Britta Teckentrup’s signature style collage scenes, with their die-cut pages, follow the action and the bear cub, highlighting the importance of each home mentioned in the narrative as well as showing the seasonal changes in the forest.

Seasons
Hannah Pang and Clover Robin

Author Hannah and illustrator Clover take us to half a dozen different locations in the world to experience the natural world in all its glory through the seasons.

We observe the changes that each season brings, starting with a focus on a mighty European oak tree that stands majestically in a meadow, its spreading branches and roots providing shelter and food for countless creatures – birds, insects and other minibeasts, small mammals and some larger ones too.

Spring, summer and autumn with their flowers, fruits and fungi are times of abundance for the various animals. Come winter, the branches are bare and it’s a hard time for animals, many of which hide themselves away in order to survive. Indeed, change through every season is vital for survival of the tree and the associated wildlife.

The other natural habitats are the chilly Arctic where the change in length of day and night is dramatic,

the wilds of Alaska where rivers freeze in the coldest months; a boggy mangrove in northern Australia – one season teeming with land animals, another with fish; then comes the Yellow Dragon Valley, home to some of China’s rarest animals including the giant panda.

The last stop is on the grasslands of the Kenyan Maasai Mara with its wonderful richness of awesome animals and plant life.

As in the oak tree’s location so it is with all the others: change is vital for survival and the Great Migration of the animals of the final location is, so we read, ‘one of the most dramatic events on Earth. For the animals, … a journey of life and death.’

Since the pandemic struck, I think huge numbers of us have become much more aware of the importance of nature in our lives: this book, with Clover Robin’s richly detailed illustrations and Hannah Pang’s factual text, sings that song loud and clear.

Books to Give

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll illustrated by Minalima
Harper Design

Beautifully designed and arrestingly illustrated with interactive features is the award-winning design firm Mina Lima’s latest classic from Harper Design. It’s clear that Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (best known for their visual graphics for the Harry Potter films), thoroughly enjoyed doing the visuals for this weird and wonderful world created by Lewis Carroll.

Some of their delights include Alice with extendable limbs for growing and shrinking; Tweedledum and Tweedledee have layers of interchangeable articles of attire – brilliant;

an unfolding chess board map to navigate one’s way through the world of the Looking Glass; the Cheshire Cat has a pull-tab so you can make it appear and disappear leaving only a grin.

Reading this story beloved from childhood in an interactive way, opens up new insights and every page turn brings fresh delight be it the tiny motifs surrounding the numbers, the ornate borders, the flamingo croquet club that swings to whack the hedgehog, or the richly patterned, deliciously quirky full page scenes – the portrayal of the card playing King and Queen of Hearts is out-of-this-world genius.

I could go on at length extolling its delights but let me just say, this is a book to treasure, to buy and to give; it deserves a place in everybody’s collection.

Seasons
Sam Usher
Templar Books

This super boxed set contains Sam Usher’s seasonal picture books Snow, Rain, Sun and Storm, all previously reviewed on this blog and now in a smaller format.

They portray the beautifully observed, very special relationship between a lively little boy and his Grandad (who likes to take his time), and the adventures they enjoy together

In each story Sam’s wonderful humorous ink and watercolour illustrations show the possibilities of the season to perfection.

What a cracking present this would make for any young child who doesn’t already own the full size editions of the tales.

The Story Orchestra: Swan Lake
illustrated by Jess Courtney-Tickle
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Here’s a short, look and listen retelling of a classic Tchaikovsky ballet, the listen element coming from the ten sound buttons – one per spread dropped into the scenes of the flock of swans as they fly past Siegfried; the lakeside at sunset where the four cygnets become dancers watched seemingly by deer, squirrels, birds, the trees even, and others. We see Odile dance with Prince Siegfried and dupe him into believing that she is Odette, the enchanted swan, watched we’re told by the wicked Rothbart who has placed the princess under a curse.

This version has a ‘happy ever after, on Earth’ ending.

At the back of the book, is a short biography of the composer, Tchaikovsky, with details about his composition of Swan Lake. Alongside you can replay the musical excerpts and read a discussion of each of the instruments, rhythms and musical techniques that make them so compellingly beautiful.
There’s also a glossary giving definitions of musical terms.

Sleep Well Siba & Saba / The Frog in the Well

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn
Lantana Publishing
Sisters, Siba and Saba are inveterate losers of things, be it sweaters – seven of them; silver sandals ‘on sandy beaches at Ssese islands’ ; even their bedroom slippers go missing.
Strangely though, they never manage to lose one another; and when their papa had sung them to off sleep, “Sula bulungi, Siba and Saba,”, the sisters would find their lost possessions in their dreams.

One night though, their dreams are of things not lost – a silver shilling for Siba and a ‘stiffly starched school uniform’ for Saba.

Sisters as close as these two share everything, so when they wake from their slumbers, Siba and Saba share their dreamtime sorties. The following day two very unexpected things happen: I expect you can guess what they are: rather than be a story-spoiler though I’ll just say that from that day forward, those sisters always set their sights firmly on the future and what it might bring …

Such eloquence of words and pictures; this simply sparkles with brilliance.
Isdahl’s sibilant text combines with stunningly beautiful scenes of the sisters both inside and outdoors in the African landscapes.

The Frog in the Well
Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
An oldie but goodie: I think I may somewhere have a very old edition of this enchanting book from way back when I used to visit the USA fairly frequently. Now it’s been given a new lease of life by the New York Review. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it centres on a well-residing frog who leads a contented life thinking his well is the whole world; “The world is nothing but moss-covered rocks … with a pool of water at the bottom.” is what he tells himself. But then the well-water dries up and the frog is forced to emerge into “the end of the world”

Deciding to take a look around, he discovers all kinds of ‘end-of-the-world’ creatures, learns a few things and eventually becomes a very wise, wide world-loving frog ready to take the longest leap he’s ever made …

For, “A foolish frog can be happy all alone at the bottom of a well, but a clever frog can be much happier out here.”
With its supremely brilliant visual perspectives and thought-provoking words, this still has much to offer 21st century readers and listeners, who will bring to the story an entirely different perspective from that of audiences when it was published in 1958.
More classic Duvoisin comes in:

The House of Four Seasons
Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
A wonderful celebration of colour, the seasons and endeavour: and built into this uplifting story are lessons on colour mixing, and a demonstration of how to create a colour wheel.
Both books offer a great opportunity to discover or re-discover some vintage gems from over 60 years ago.

I’ve signed the charter  

The River / Wilderness: Nature’s Wonders

%0A

The River
Hanako Clulow and Patricia Hegarty
Caterpillar Books
‘In snow-capped mountains among the firs/ The north wind blows; something stirs./ Through icy water, a small fish darts -/ This is where her journey starts …
We join that shimmering, glimmering fish as she journeys down river starting from the snow-capped mountain peaks, swishing past dense mountain woods …

%0A

and pine forests, through ever-changing landscapes as she travels by day and night …

DSCN8410

and through the seasons, on her epic swim to the vast, deep open sea ‘where she’s meant to be!’ – a sea populated by a shoal of sparkly fish.

DSCN8390

Readers delight in joining the fish on her journey, making her swim faster or slower by tilting and angling the book, viewing her as an ever-in-motion hologram (set inside the back cover) through a die-cut hole that keeps her, mid-stream, on every spread. Read it first to play with the fish and then turn back and re-read the whole, savouring Patricia Hegarty’s lyrical rhyming text and being spell-bound by the wonderful wildlife scenes rendered in soft, matte textured, illustrations. The richly detailed, painterly style shows feathers and fur as if close up …
%0A

as well as the gorgeous hues of the surrounding flora of the landscapes.
What a superb testament to one particular river, and to the rich abundance of flora and fauna through which it flows and of course, to one little fish on its migratory journey. SO much to see, SO much to think about, SO much to relish.

DSCN8411

Wilderness
Hannah Pang and Jenny Wren
360 Degrees (a Little Tiger imprint)
Subtitled ‘An Interactive Atlas of Animals’ this has visual appeal in bucket loads and it’s highly informative too. It introduces readers to a variety of habitats in both Eastern and Western Hemispheres and then focuses on different habitats in turn allocating a double spread to each one. We embark on a tropical rainforest ramble (visiting various locations as not all the animals featured are found in the same part of the world),

DSCN8383

a safari in the hot grassy savannahs of Africa, join an ocean dive and search, visit a freshwater location, the desert dunes, polar regions and high mountain pastures and forests, complete with pop-up mountain …

DSCN8381

Snippets of information abound on every location spread and there are flaps to lift enabling readers to discover more about the various animals resting upon them; there are even mini booklets on Bugs, Creatures of the Deep, the Honeybee and the salmon life-cycle.

DSCN8384

There’s a tiny life-cycle book on the left …

So, we have some desert dunes populated by Arabian camels, Addax (rare creatures also called Screwhorn antelopes), a vulture, a Namib Dune Gecko, a rattlesnake that leaves tell-tale tracks in the sand, hairy, scary giant scorpions and tarantulas; and there’s a side wheel which when turned shows the enormous range of temperatures of the habitat. (sub zero at night and 45 degrees C at mid-day).

%0A

Rotating wheel top left …

Chock-full of details, rich in the colours of mother nature’s palette, and sturdily designed and built to withstand frequent handling, this is one to engender a sense of awe and wonder about the natural world, and highly recommended for the family bookshelf and a must-buy for early years and primary school classroom.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Little Guide to Gardening

DSCN7224 (800x600)

A Little Guide to Gardening
Jo Elworthy and Eleanor Taylor
Eden Project
For this, the third ‘Little Guide to’ we have a new artist in Eleanor Taylor.
The chatty narrative opens with an introductory invitation ‘Imagine a special piece of earth where you can sow, plant and grow anything you like.‘ I can envisage some youngsters reading this and wanting to plant enormous exotic jungly gardens and others thinking of a patch of wild flowers, both of which are possible for the narration continues ‘A garden can be very big. A garden can be very small. A garden can be up high. A garden can be just for you. Or somewhere to share … You can make your garden here, there or anywhere. You don’t even need a flowerpot!’ Then, after a brief introduction to plants in general, Jo Elworthy takes readers through the seasons from spring to winter, talking about the changes through the year , listing jobs to do and suggesting activities. These are taken up in more detail later in the book when Eleanor Taylor’s delicate, winsome illustrations animate the step-by-step instructions and the wealth of other horticultural information …

DSCN7228 (800x600)

There’s much more besides though, including pages on some of the garden visitors – butterflies,

DSCN7229 (800x600)

birds and soil-dwelling creatures – all beautifully illustrated and each one a mini work of art in itself. So much to inspire young, potential gardeners: who wouldn’t want to make a den like this one?

DSCN7230 (800x600)

Or this one among the peas and beans?

DSCN7227 (800x600)

There are some delicious historical snippets such as ‘ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis: Victorians put rosemary in the handles of their walking sticks. They used to sniff them thinking they kept diseases away.’

DSCN7225 (800x600)

And Dill – It was called ‘meeting house seed’ by the settlers in North America as children chewed it in sermons to stop them from feeling hungry. Goodness knows how long the sermons were then!

DSCN7226 (800x600)

Readers are also provided with blank pages at the back of the book to keep a seasonal record (I’d be hesitant to write in such a lovely book but that’s down to lucky owners to decide for themselves.) And there’s a tick list for recording plants grown.
The previous Little Guides – Little Guide to Trees and The Little Guide to Wild Flowers were illustrated by Charlotte Voake and this one maintains the high standard she set therein; indeed I notice the font used here is the one devised by Charlotte.
This is definitely one for the family bookshelf.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

Little One

DSCN6278 (800x600)

Little One
Jo Weaver
Hodder Children’s Books
Big Bear and Little One emerge from their winter den into the spring sunshine. It’s clearly Little One’s first experience of the season: “There’s so much to discover in your new world,” his mother tells him leading him into a forest astir with new life.

DSCN6279 (800x600)

What follows is a journey through the seasons with some life lessons for Little One, wonderfully rendered in Jo Weaver’s quietly beautiful charcoal illustrations. How to be gentle …

DSCN6280 (800x600)

and playful. How to catch fish …

DSCN6281 (800x600)

and how to swim.
How to find food in the autumn

DSCN6284 (800x600)

before winter comes around once more and it’s time to leave the forest and head for their den to spend another winter together, Little One so much wiser now from all his experiences.
Jo Weaver’s superb craftsmanship in her use of black and white and greys is evident on every single spread: just look at this nocturnal scene:

DSCN6283 (800x600)

and this glorious skyscape …

DSCN6285 (800x600)

There’s a gentle lyrical, almost meditational quality too, in Weaver’s writing as she moves her characters and readers right through a whole year in this, her debut picture book. It’s one to be shared one to one or with a small group when in keeping with the narrative, the pace can be slow and children and adult have time to explore the wonderful, illustrative details. I love the circular nature of the whole thing too.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2