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.

Mind Your Manners

Mind Your Manners
Nicola Edwards and Feronia Parker-Thomas
Caterpillar Books

The creatures in this junglee tale need a lesson or two in minding their Ps and Qs and that is exactly what they get in Nicola Edwards’ rhyming advocacy for politeness and good manners. After all, if they’re all to live together in peace and harmony they need to listen to the wise words of advice offered herein.
Snatching pandas need to say a polite “please” while ungrateful tigers should always offer a pleasant “thank you” when they receive a gift or an act of kindness.
“Excuse me” is required vocabulary for stomping, clomping pachyderms, whereas ‘sorry’ is thus far lacking in the snake’s speech.

Not invading another’s space is also strongly advised, especially when that space happens to be a quiet reading spot.

Merely parroting another’s words is a definite no, no, as is dropping rubbish and thus upsetting the balance of nature. Oh my goodness these animals DO have a lot to learn.
Selfishness is thoroughly undesirable, as are disgusting food consuming habits,

as well as careless words that might hurt another’s feelings: sweet words are much, much better.

So too is knowing when it’s okay to be noisy and when quiet is the order of the day, while grouchiness and unkindness need to be replaced with warmth and sharing.

Look how much more desirable that jungle home is now that the animals are finally putting all that sound advice into practice.

Spirited scenes of animal behaviour good and bad (including that of the artist’s favourites, bears), executed in watercolour and pen, along with Nicola Edwards’ wise words delivered in rhyme; you have to get the rhythm right to share it effectively so I’d suggest a practice run first. There’s some fun alliteration concerning that silly snake and the  messy monkey to get your tongue around too.

More bears (along with foxes) grace the lovely endpapers – the front ones showing undesirable actions; the back ones, good  behaviour.

Hello Hello

Hello Hello
Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books

An exchange of hellos between a black cat and a white one sets in motion a concatenation of greetings that celebrates the world’s amazing diversity of zoological life forms, as each turn of the page leads on to something different.

First it’s the varieties of ‘Black and White’ showcasing the black cat, a black bear, a panda, a zebra and a zebrafish.
This fish starts off the colour blast on the next spread where we find …

which completes the rhyming couplet.
The salamander greets the striped and spotted animals on the following page and so it continues with more and more animals and greetings as the creatures pose and posture, display their tongues,

avort, turn upside down or strut across the pages leading into a dance of interconnectedness over the final double spread.
Wenzel uses many different media – pastels, markers, coloured pencils, cut paper collage and oils to showcase his arresting animal and human compositions.

Each of the animals portrayed has a vital role in the ecosystem it inhabits and Wenzel reminds readers of this in the final pages of the book. There is also a double spread identification guide – a cast in order of appearance –that includes information on which ones are ‘vulnerable’, ‘near threatened’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ species. We should get to know more about these amazing creatures and the need to protect those under threat.
As Wenzel, himself an animal enthusiast, says in his author’s note, ‘It starts with saying hello.’

A clever and artful book that celebrates both difference and what unites us, and a message about acceptance of all.
Savour, share, and discuss.

What Do Animals Do All Day? / Rainforest

What Do Animals Do All Day?
Wendy Hunt and Muti
Wide Eyed Editions

This is a follow-up and in some ways, a companion volume to What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? The author and illustrator take us to fourteen different habitats – every spread has lots to look at – and for each, on the following spread, introduces us to eight residents, every one of which briefs us on its role in that particular ecosystem.

Some of the job descriptions will make young children laugh. The Decorator Crab that resides on coral reefs and sticks pieces of sponge onto its shell as camouflage describes itself as a ‘fashion designer’ …

while the Large-eared Horseshoe Bat calls itself a ‘sound engineer’ since it makes use of sound waves and echoes to locate moths in the dark.

I certainly have no desire to encounter the Striped Skunk, a forest resident that sprays stinky ‘perfume’ lasting several days. and describes its role as ‘perfumier’.
Another forest dweller the North American Porcupine tells readers its an ‘acupuncturist’.

I particularly liked the Death Stalker Scorpion’s description of itself s ‘brain surgeon’s assistant’. (Researchers are using its venom in a cure for brain tumours.)

If you were to visit the wetland reed beds in Somerset you might come across animals who describe themselves as ‘sleigh-rider, ‘aerobatic flyer’, ‘camper’, ‘trapeze artist’, ‘sun-seeker’, ‘submariner’, ‘opera singer’ and ‘synchronised swimmer’. Can you think what their common names might be?

An attractive, somewhat quirky book that provides plenty for children to talk about.

Rainforest
Julia Groves
Child’s Play

The focus here is on the visual, with fifteen animals being featured in Julia Groves’ first picture book. (Sixteen if you count the butterfly on the title page) None is named until the final spread where detailed information about each of them is given in tiny print.

A single line of text accompanies each illustration that evokes the nature of the particular creature, so for instance, ‘Fleeting ripples trace the runner’ accompanies the picture of the Plumed Basilisk Lizard; ‘Slowly stalking, majestic and silent.’ is the Jaguar and …

‘ Flickering tongues sense the air’

The rainforest is, as the book’s blurb tells us, a ‘precious and endangered habitat’; Julia Groves imaginative presentation of some of its inhabitants offers young readers an opportunity to enjoy what most of us will never see in the wild.

The Squirrels’ Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

From the creators of Fox in the Night is a new addition to the Science Storybook series, this time about the seasons and changes in the weather.

We start in winter and just like today when I’m writing this, it’s very cold, the pond is frozen and snow covers the ground. The animals are tucked away in warm places until they have to go out and search for food.

Spring brings warmer weather with bird song, croaking frogs, scampering squirrels hoping to find juicy maple buds on the trees or bulbs they can unearth; but they’ll have to be quick for there’s an owl on the prowl.
With the summer come hotter days, the need for shade, and longer hours of daylight with a chance of thundery weather.

Come autumn and the frogs have gone to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud;

many birds have flown to warmer climes and the squirrels start collecting for their winter store in preparation for hibernating.
All this is presented through an engaging, at times poetic, text, together with some basic scientific facts, and in Richard Jones’ textured illustrations.
His beautifully crafted scenes work in perfect harmony with Jenkins’ descriptions, his colour palette mirroring the seasonal hues superbly.
Look how perfectly this embodies the hushed arrival of winter’s snow …

A fine example of non-fiction for the very young.

Run, Elephant, Run

Run, Elephant Run
Patricia MacCarthy
Otter-Barry Books

As a storm gathers, lashing the vegetation of his Indonesian rainforest home and pelting down upon Little Elephant, he becomes separated from his mother.
The storm gets increasingly wild but there’s something even more fierce close by. It’s a tiger.
Little Elephant battles against the whirling, swirling elements, the creature hot on his trail. With no time to hide, Little Elephant has to run for his life through the slippery mud.

He slips and falls, whooshing pell-mell down a muddy slope right into his anxiously searching mother.
There’s only one thing to do: make as much noise as possible; so they trumpet and stamp till suddenly

the tiger turns tail and dashes away.
Eventually the storm blows itself out and with the change in the weather, the herd moves on. The weather isn’t all that’s different though: thanks to his adventure, one small pachyderm has changed on the inside. He now feels bigger and braver as he sploshes and splashes with the other elephants in the rain pool.

With its wealth of onomatopoeia this is a great book for adding sound effects during a story session. Children could use their voices, found objects or musical instruments – possibly ones they’ve made themselves – to orchestrate the reading.
First though, read the story, look closely at the superb visuals and then, using the final puzzle spread, go back through the book and search for the thirty odd rainforest creatures in the richly coloured illustrations.

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