Tag Archives: DK

Explanatorium of Nature / Urban Jungle

Explanatorium of Nature
DK

This definitely isn’t a book to carry around in your school bag unless you want to do a bit of weight training; it’s an extremely heavy tome (more than 2Kg) with over 350 pages including contents, glossary and index.
Its conventional structure takes readers through ten sections starting with The Basics of Life, followed by a journey through living things from Microorganisms and Fungi right through to Mammals and taking in, by turn, Plants, Invertebrates, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and finally, Habitats.
As you might expect, The Basics of Life covers the origins of life, reproduction, cells and how they work, DNA, evolution and classification, each being allocated a double spread.
Thereafter, each section is further broken down into one or two double page spreads per topic, ‘Algae’ for example or ‘How chemical defences work’, and includes a main photographic illustration and information surrounded by smaller pictures, labels and additional facts.
The photography is amazing and the book is packed with a great deal of fascinating information presented in a manner that makes the whole thing feel inviting without being overwhelming.

There’s even a superb die-cut cover.
It works well as a book to browse through or to seek specific information from, and would be great to give a budding young biologist.
One for the family bookshelf or school library.

Urban Jungle
Vicky Woodgate
Big Picture Press

My goodness, this is a large volume but it’s one animal lovers in particular will enjoy spending time exploring, along with author/illustrator, Vicky Woodgate, who is passionate about wildlife and travel. Herein she takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of 38 cities on six continents exploring the plethora of animals to be found there.
Each of the enticing city maps depicts fauna large and small, some commonly seen, others seldom sighted. Barcelona for instance has a wealth of birds – peregrine falcons in the bell tower of the Sagrada Familia for instance – something I’ve not appreciated in my numerous visits to the city and its environs.

I was however aware of the presence of leopards in Mumbai, another city I’ve visited on many occasions, although I’ve never seen a leopard roaming. I have though seen the three-striped palm squirrels whizzing around, and the beautiful purple-rumped sunbirds.

Most familiar to me is the rich variety of birds and animals in London and the suburbs that it’s all too easy to take for granted wandering through say, Richmond Park with its herds of deer and those pesky parakeets; or the red foxes that roam the streets looking for rodents, or rubbish bins to rummage. Then there are those majestic swans one frequently sees on the Thames; but I’ve never seen, or was even aware of there being a short-snouted seahorse living in its waters.
I found myself getting drawn into this stylish book, turning first to the 8 maps of the cities I’ve spend time in, and then going on to explore other urban jungles. I’m sure children will love browsing its expansive pages, enjoying the portraits of the animal residents of each city, as well as discovering the fascinating facts about them. An expert from each location has fact-checked the information to ensure that this walk on the wild side of the world’s busiest cities is accurate as well as exciting.

Amazing Information Books

Bees
Toni Yuly
Walker Books
For the very youngest is this beautifully simple book of gratitude that demonstrates our connectedness to the natural world: it’s narrated by a small boy, who we see interacting with the things he mentions.
‘Sun gives us light. // Thank you, sun. // Bees give us honey. // Thank you, bees.’ Thus begins the concatenation of connections: from sheep we have wool. From clouds comes the rain, trees provide wood

and thanks to dirt, there are plants.
Appropriately, bold, bright collage illustrations combine fabric, paper, wood, ink and tissue, re-enforcing the biological bounties of the natural world.
Perfect for an end of the day sharing, be it with a single child, or nursery group; and equally with its minimal patterned text, it’s ideal for those just starting to read.

The Story of Snow
Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson
Chronicle Books
In this narrative non-fiction book we begin high up in the clouds with an explanation of how a tiny speck of earthly matter becomes a snow crystal (each crystal requires a single particle to start growing); and then we zoom right into a crystal.

Did you know that its shape depends on the wetness of the cloud and how cold it is? Or, that a single crystal is rarely perfect.
We learn that there are in fact, three main types of snow crystal – star-shaped, plate and column-shaped; and are told something about each kind including the different conditions under which the three kinds form.

With its succinct text, diagrams and amazing photographs of each kind of crystal, this is an excellent starting point for those who want to discover more about snow and can be used across a wide age range. There’s even an instruction spread on how to catch and observe snow crystals; and I love the final quote from Japanese scientist, Ukichiro Nakaya, ‘A snow crystal is a letter from the sky.’ – a perfect ending to a fascinating book.

Bugs
Simon Tyler
Pavilion Books
This large format book is packed with bright, bold illustrations and is designed to draw readers into the fascinating world of insects, the title word being used as an alternative generic term for this entire class of animal.
The first third is devoted to their general characteristics including anatomy, life cycle, eyes …

and other senses, and how and what they eat. Also included is an explanation of taxonomy.
The remaining 60 or so pages cover the nine main insect orders including beetles,

true bugs,

dragonflies, flies, cockroaches and termites. There’s also a double spread each, covering the most dangerous bugs, and some beneficial ones at the end.
The larger than life illustrations of representatives of each order are drawn from all parts of the world and each is captioned with its own common and scientific names, its size, its geographic range and a short factoid of additional information. The detailed scientific information together with the superb illustrations make it appropriate for a wide readership.

13 ½ Incredible Things You Need to Know about Everything
DK
Dorling Kindersley do non-fiction books really well and this one is amazing.
The title of this large volume makes you stop in your tracks and wonder what on earth could be inside.
Prepare to be impressed at the superb exploded illustrations you’ll encounter at every turn of the page, be they of Fantastic Fungi, Super Seeds or any other of the biological topics explored.

Biology isn’t the only subject herein though. The book also covers medicine, space, geology, history, technology, music and more, such is its diversity.
With over a thousand facts (not to mention those myth-busting halves, one per topic) you’re guaranteed a fascinating read. And if you don’t come away from the book knowing a whole lot more than before you started reading it, then your knowledge must have been truly encyclopaedic.

Focus on Animals

Animalkind
Pablo Salvaje
Prestel
Spanish illustrator Pablo Salvaje pays homage to the animal kingdom in this visually stunning picture book that serves as a potent reminder that we are not the sole inhabitants of the earth. Rather we’re members of a vast ecosystem that includes countless numbers of other living things.
Herein we encounter a wide variety of creatures great and small from penguins to peacocks, snakes to spiders and crocodiles to chameleons. Each of these and many others are portrayed in Salvaje’s hand-printed spreads that form the greater part of this book.
By means of its division into sections: Love, Rhythms, Survival, Transformation,

Habitat, Water, Treasures, and there’s a final epilogue, we visit various parts of the planet and discover how like humans, animals too, such as penguins, may form bonds; have their own rhythms; form communities; need food for survival and may fight or co-operate to survive; undergo changes – temporary or permanent and go to great lengths to protect their young.

Compassionate and with a spiritual underpinning, this is a book for all ages and for those of both an artistic and a scientific bent.

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals
DK
How on earth does one decide what to include in a chunky book such as this? I guess cherry-picking is the answer and this really is a dipping-into book.
It’s divided into four sections: All About Animals, Amazing Animals, Animal Antics and More Very Important Animals and there’s a handy ribbon to mark your place, a glossary of animal words and an index.
There’s a wealth of information attractively presented in easily digestible bite sizes – even the odd fable – and a good balance between text and visuals;

the latter being predominantly, superb photographic images.
A worthwhile addition to a KS1 collection, or for families with young children to enjoy together.

Baby Dolphin’s First Swim
Sterling Children’s Books
From the American Museum of Natural History comes a sequence of photographs and accompanying narrative about the very first day in life of a baby dolphin.
We see the new-born close by his mother’s side as she nudges him to the surface of the ocean to take his first breath (through a hole on the top of his head), called a blowhole, so the straightforward narrative says.
Communication, feeding …

and being a new addition to the pod that serves to protect the infant are all part of the first day’s learning documented in the simple text and photographic sequence.
Neil Duncan, a biologist with the museum is featured in two final ‘Meet the expert’ paragraphs although whether he supplied the narrative or beautiful photos is not made clear. Nonetheless it’s an engaging book for young natural history enthusiasts or for a primary school topic box.

A Handful of Animal Board Books

The Safari Set
The Jungle Crew
The Polar Pack

Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here we have the first three board books to be added to the Mibo series and they’re some of the best board books I’ve seen in a long while. Each one features a different natural location and all have rhyming texts and some brief, attractively presented snippets of information inside the back cover.
The Safari Set takes us to the dusty, sun-scorched African plains where lions laze, giraffes graze

on high-up leaves, elephants roam, zebras flash past and hippos wallow for hours in the cool water.
In the dappled, leafy jungle we encounter members of The Jungle Crew: a troop of lively monkeys, screeching macaws with their dazzling plumage,

a fearsome-looking tiger stalks, toucans chomp on tasty fruits and tree frogs hop, and drop (when it’s time to lay eggs).
Members of The Polar Pack live in either the far north or far south; many are under threat and need protection. The South Pole is home to Emperor penguins: mighty-tusked walruses, polar bears,

huge-hooved reindeer and snowy owls reside in the North Pole.
Superb, beautifully patterned illustrations and rhyming texts that are a pleasure to read aloud make these top quality little books for the very youngest.

Really Feely Baby Animals
Really Feely Farm

Polly Appleton and Dawn Sirett
DK
A host of animals (5 per book) introduce themselves and invite toddlers to participate in a variety of sensory experiences such as ‘Rub my tufty fur. Then choose a shiny red apple for me to eat.’ or …

Feel my fuzzy feathers. And touch my smooth, pointy beak.

A kitten, a playful puppy and a baby rabbit also want to be similarly explored in Baby Animals.
In Farm Animals we meet first a chicken, and go on to encounter a sheep, a piglet, a duckling …

Feel my soft, fluffy tummy. And touch my smooth, shiny beak.

and a calf.
In both books the photographic images on each recto really seem to leap out from the page, heightening the whole visual experience. On the baby rabbit page for instance, its whiskers glisten as the light catches them. However it isn’t only the animals that are tactile; every item on the page provides a lovely feely experience and a whole lot of language learning possibilities.

100 First Words / Animal Sounds & Things That Go / My First Wildlife Sticker Activity Book

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100 First Words
Dawn Sirett and Charlotte Milner
DK
This large format book is definitely a lap style board book not a ‘clutch in the pram’ kind. It encompasses fourteen topics, one per page; and those on opposite pages are related, so we have for instance: My body and My clothes; My toys and Colours, Pets and Wild animals and …

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Naming is an important element of a very young child’s language learning but essentially the language learning potential in this book is far greater than that: focussing on a single image could furnish so much language learning, and that is where it comes down to the skill of the person sharing the book with a baby or young infant, (or equally, a person just starting to learn English as an additional language).

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The labelled photographic images are clear, uncluttered, and pattern is very much part of the whole look of the book.
Definitely a worthwhile investment if you have dealings with tinies

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Animal Sounds
Things That Go
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
Rich in pattern and colour, and rich in language potential, are the two new board books from fabric designer, Jane Foster. Animal sounds include the ‘meow meow’ of a ginger cat and the ‘woof woof’ of an endearing spotty dog, the gentle ‘flitter flutter’ of a butterfly’s wonderful wings and the contrasting ‘ROAR’ of a lion; and these two delectable creatures …

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The final spread comprises 22 named portraits of all the animals, taking a break from sound-making.
The layout of Things That Go is slightly different. We have eleven items represented: some that move through the air, some through water and others across land. I love the inclusion of this …

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Each ‘mover’ has a double spread, its name is given against a subtly patterned page opposite which is the object and an associated sound, I can’t imagine any toddler not enjoying sharing these beauties with an enthusiastic parent or carer.

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I foresee hours of fun and language learning where the three (or four) come together. Both books are a clever, winning mix of simplicity and sophistication.
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My First Wildlife Sticker Activity Book
illustrated by Gina Maldonado
Bloomsbury Activity Books
Published in conjunction with the rspb, this attractively illustrated book asks young children to look closely at what is on the printed page: to search for particular fauna and flora, to find matching pairs, to locate minibeasts, add stickers to scenes, find the odd one out and so on. There’s no substitute for seeing the real thing, but one hopes having done the activities herein, youngsters will be inspired to go out and look at the natural world for real.

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Board Book Shelf 1

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Flip Flap Dogs
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow
There’s a newcomer to the Flip Flap series in Nikki Dyson who introduces readers to eleven breeds of dog in this split page pooch-lovers delight. In all though you can make 121 different combinations by manipulating the bissected cardboard pages..
There’s a descriptive, two verse rhyme for each breed in which, for example the Terrier, introduces itself
opposite a portrait of same, and a characteristic ‘Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!’ or whatever. And then, that might become with a deft flick of the flaps, say, a ‘Terrihuahua’ …

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or all manner of other crazy crossbreeds. Splendid stuff especially, if you’re canine crazy.

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Pairs! in the garden
Pairs! underwater

Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Pairs! is a new series which provides young children with an interactive information book, a memory game (via the flaps and a straightforward instruction such as ‘Find each matching pair of snails’, and an inviting, brightly illustrated board book all between the same two covers. In the Garden penned by Smriti, introduces, with a series of jolly rhymes, including some nice alliteration ‘swirly, sparkly silver trails’, all kinds of minibeasts scattered among a plethora of flowers.
One of my preschool testers has a great time ascribing names to the various creatures Lorna Scobie has illustrated: ‘buzzy fat bee’, ‘cuddly bee’, ‘grumpy bee’ ‘but this cross skinny bee doesn’t have a friend’.

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The grasshoppers became ‘dotty’, ‘spotty’ ‘stripey’ and ‘skinny striped’ while among the caterpillars were ‘hairy, scary blue’ and ‘red spotalot’. My favourite though I think, was ‘pinky purply underpants’ beetle’.
Underwater looks at marine life both on the shore (despite the title) and under the sea …

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and is equally attractive and involving.

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Baby Dinosaurs
Minibeasts

DK
These two larger than usual board books ask users to ‘Follow the Trail’ or trails, as there are several offered on some spreads to interact with Baby Dinosaurs or a variety of Minibeasts. The trails are glittery embossed lines that readers can trace across the pages with their fingers and at the same time find out something about the Allosaurus, Diplodocus, Styracosaurus and Tuojiangosaurus or alternatively butterflies, honeybees, ladybirds and dragonflies.
Digital illustrations of the baby dinosaurs are set against clean white backgrounds on which are digitally drawn flora to give a idea of their environments. Interactive instructions (‘Loop around’ or ‘Make an oval shape as you go round the dinosaur egg’), brief facts about the animals (‘Allosaurus walked on two legs’. ‘Mummy Allosaurus was about as tall as a giraffe‘),

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and die-cut holes through which to peep at what dinosaur is coming next add up to a playful, multilayered reading experience.
Similarly with the minibeasts (all four are winged insects), there are glittery trails – looping or zigzagging, going straight or curving up and down, to take the insects to the flowers containing nectar, honeycombs,

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aphids on a leaf, or a pond. All are illustrated by Charlotte Milner and the inclusion of a snail with its spiral shell to trace as the ladybird travels over a flowerpot, justifies the Minibeasts title.
One of my preschool testers seized on these and, after spending a considerable time enjoying sharing them, wanted to keep them; this had to be put on hold until I’d had a chance to reflect and write however. Beautifully done and certain to be read over and over.

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When an Elephant Falls in Love / I Love You

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When an Elephant Falls in Love
Davide Cali and Alice Lotti
Chronicle Books
Davide Cali of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School and The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer fame brings his sardonic wit to an exploration of falling in love, elephant style.
In his straightforward text, he offers, one by one, eight symptoms of this state of being. Alice Lotti portrays each of these ‘foolish things’ with equal wit in her stark, mixed media illustrations. Elephant is the perfect purveyor of the condition as his huge bulk serves to emphasise the daftness of each action …

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He hides whenever he sees her.

And, there’s a tiny yellow bird that pops up as an observer of each scene, further adding to the overall impact of the whole crazy scenario …

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Look by the bowl …

Both young readers and adults will find plenty to make them smile in this, whether or not they recognise the symptoms from personal experience or observations of others, for it’s plain to see that when an elephant falls in love …

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his actions are pretty much those of a besotted human.

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I Love You
Clemency Pearce and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
The all important title message is delivered through Clemency Pearce’s warm-hearted, rhyming text and super-cute, patterned illustrations. With its textual pattern that begins, ‘ When you feel so very small, / when no one seems to care at all, / what can make you ten feet tall? // Three little words …
(turn over) … ‘I love you!’ …

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this cries out to the very young to join in with those three words after each verse is read aloud.
But those recipients of love can also help make others feel better …

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Ideal to share with your toddler, this board book is a delight.
Another board book with the same title is

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I Love You
Dawn Sirett
DK
This is the latest addition to DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series.
Colour photographs of animals, toys and humans …

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each with a finger-sized tactile feature are the ingredients of this chunky little book. Just right for the very youngest to explore.

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The Ultimate Peter Rabbit / The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

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The Ultimate Peter Rabbit
Camilla Hallinan
DK
2016 is the year of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. As part of these celebrations this large book, subtitled ‘A Visual Guide to the World of Peter Rabbit’ first published in 2002, is re-issued in an updated version.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit has a special place in my heart: it’s the book I learned to read with. I can still recall, after having it read aloud as a bedtime story countless times, that age five, I realized I could read it myself. The joy of matching the words in my head with those on the page is something I’ll never forget and then to go to infant school shortly after and be given Janet & John books to learn to read with, was to say the least insulting; fortunately I didn’t associate those with ‘real reading’ rather something to ‘do’ to keep my teachers happy. At home I continued with Jemima Puddleduck, The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Flopsy Bunnies and all the other wonders from the pen of Beatrix Potter.
Herein Camilla Hallinan brings us a veritable treasure trove of illustrations, original Potter sketches, memorabilia, specially commissioned photos and more.

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It’s the kind of book you start dipping into and then realize you’ve just spent ages lost in its delights. Delights including spreads on the other wonderful books that followed Peter Rabbit starting with The Tailor of Gloucester and going right through to The Tale of Little Pig Robinson finally completed in 1930.
What a fascinating mix of natural history, art and history. I love the timeline that takes us right back to 1893
when Beatrix Potter first told her Peter Rabbit story to 5 year old Noel Moore in a picture letter, right up to 2016 with commemorative coins, stamps, a musical and the publication of a rediscovered story.
All in all, a marvellous book for anyone with an interest in, or memories of, an early childhood populated by Peter Rabbit and his friends. Happy hours of nostalgic browsing guaranteed.

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The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots
Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake
Frederick Warne
This story was rediscovered a couple of years back when Jo Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children’s, came across an out-of-print literary history about Beatrix Potter from the early 1970’s. In the book, Hanks found both a reference to a letter that Potter had sent her publisher in 1914, referring to a story about ‘a well-behaved prim black Kitty cat, who leads a double life’, and an unedited manuscript of the tale. Digging around in the V&A archive, Jo Hanks found there were in fact three manuscripts and letters showing Potter’s intentions to complete the work on the story– something that never happened until in 2015 Quentin Blake was offered (and accepted) the task of providing the illustrations for this book.
That serious black cat, Kitty …

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has an alter ego as the air-gun wielding, Norfolk jacket and boots wearing, night poacher.
While another cat impersonates her she embarks on a poaching trip that goes decidedly wrong when she comes up against none other than Mr Tod having crash-landed into one of his traps; and as a result learns an important lesson.

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Those readers familiar with Potter’s stories will delight in guest appearances from other famous characters such as Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and a buck rabbit wearing a blue coat who bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain naughty young rabbit previously spotted stealing radishes from the garden of Mr McGregor.

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Potter’s writing style in this book seems quite unlike that in her other stories and Quentin Blake’s illustrations are altogether more scribbly than the mannered ones of Potter; so this book, which is also much larger than the format of the original iconic series, has a rather different feel to it. I’m fascinated, but still making up my mind. Kitty-in-Boots won’t win the author many new fans but it will surely be of interest to her countless established ones.

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