Oceanarium

Oceanarium
Teagan White and Loveday Trinick
Big Picture Press

This outsize volume is part of the Welcome to the Museum series that uses the interactive gallery style of a museum, in this instance taking readers to meet the amazing life found in and around the seas. 

As always the presentation is superb: a large clear, well leaded font is used for the text, there are awesome full page illustrations by Teagan White opposite each page of text, and marine biologist Loveday Trinick’s explanations are fascinating, educative, and likely to encourage youngsters to wonder at ocean fauna and flora.

First we are given a general introduction to the historic oceanic divisions and the ocean zones before proceeding to the first gallery wherein the microscopic plankton – both phytoplankton and zooplankton – are to be found.

Gallery 2 exhibits fauna that inhabit coral reefs; there are examples of wandering jellyfish; the Portuguese Man o’War, (a venomous predator) actually a colony comprising four different kinds of polyps that all work together to act as one animal. and examples of some of the 1000 known anemone species. (I never knew before that there was a Venus flytrap anemone). The gallery also includes a full page illustration of a coral reef and some descriptive paragraphs, the last of which states that they ‘may also hold the key for the treatment of infections, heart disease and even cancer.’

Moving on, readers meet next inhabitants of the deep sea – molluscs and echinoderms, the outer shells of some of the bivalves shown may well be familiar to those who wander beaches at low tide.

No matter which of the nine galleries you wander through, the other habitats are: a rock pool, a mangrove forest, a kelp forest,

the Poles, the Galapagos islands you’ll encounter a wealth of stunning images of, and facts about the marvellous life inhabiting the deep. 

The final one draws attention to the human impact upon the ocean as a whole emphasising the vital importance of its contribution to many aspects of our lives, as well as highlighting the adverse impact we humans have already had on this watery world. However, with ever more people becoming aware of this damage, there is still time to make changes to our behaviour that can conserve, protect and restore this essential component of Earth’s ecosystem.

Marine biology isn’t just for specialists; this wonderful book can be enjoyed by anyone from primary school onwards (it might well encourage some observational drawing) and for those who want to learn even more, try the Ocean Conservation Trust and the other organisations listed on the final page.

Dinosaurium

Dinosaurium
Chris Wormell and Lily Murray
Big Picture Press

Dinosaur books seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. This one is the latest in the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series that includes Botanicum and Animalium, and, illustrated by Chris Wormell, it’s truly awesome: serious stuff in fact.
Like others in the series, the whole thing is presented as a museum, the author and illustrator being billed as its curators and the chapters, after the ‘Entrance’ that houses an extremely useful dinosaur evolutionary tree, as a series of galleries, six in all with a final index, some information about the book’s curators and a list of further sources should readers want to learn more.
Gallery 1 is Sauropodomorpha. Don’t worry, the meaning of this is explained at the outset. Every spread has a large full-colour plate, which even has a numbered key in addition to the informative paragraphs relating to what is shown in the plate. I should mention here that these are splendid digital engravings, each illustration being in predominantly earthy tones.

The galleries proceed through Theropoda, Ornithopoda, Thyreophora, (these include the well-known to children, Stegosauria and Ankylosauria);

then on to Marginocephalia and to the final ‘Non-Dinosaurs’, which includes petrosaurs, marine repliles, Mesozoic mammals and lastly, survivors; (those that escaped the catastrophe that wiped out the ‘non-bird dinosaurs’).
Going back to Maginocephalia, take a look at this stunning plate of Diabloceratops eatoni (yes the full scientific name is given).

This creature from the late cretaceous era is thought to have been a primitive ancestor of Triceratops and would, so we’re told, have used its beaked mouth to feed on low-growing plants in areas covered by lakes, floodplains and rivers.
In addition to the amazing exhibits of the galleries, each gallery is prefaced with a beautiful botanical plate featuring an original wood-cut of typical plants from the age of the dinosaurs featured.
A short review doesn’t really do justice to this outstanding book: it’s perhaps not, despite the ‘Admit All’ on the front cover ticket, for the very youngest dinosaur discoverers; although once any child has been inside, it’s likely to be a place that they’ll want to return to over and over, gradually taking in more of Lily Murray’s detailed text,  from each visit, perhaps early on, sharing their ticket with an adult who, I’m sure, will be more than willing to act as a guide.