Blogmas 2018 · Non-Fiction

Review: Bestiary by Christopher Masters


Exploring the collection of The British Museum, this book looks at objects relating to animals. From porcelain jugs to spear-throwers, jewelry to watercolor-paintings humans have included other animals in their art for centuries. 

Divided into five sections – wild animals, domestic animals, exotic, symbolic, and mythical creatures – the book uses the museum collection to explore the different relationships humans have held with the natural world over the centuries. One of my favourite things about the format is how it encourages readers to look at museums differently. It is easy to trail around a museum or to do a gallery, but museums were designed to preserve human knowledge. Entering with a question or a theme (‘What do we know about human relationships with animals?’) encourages us to get so much more from a visit. 

The introduction tells us how the relationship with animals has developed over time. I was particularly fascinated to learn about early societies where there was less distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ than there is in the modern day. It gave me a greater empathy with and understanding of societies which believed in spirt-animals. 

The book is beautiful, full of high-definition photographs, including many full-page pictures. If you left this book out on a coffee table or in a school book-corner it would be picked up and thumbed through. It has high ‘flickabilty’. Much of the pleasure is in thumbing through the pages to look at the images. 

Bestiary would make a lovely Christmas present – for fans of Newt Scamander, for museum-goers and for people who are insatiably curious. A beautiful look into the collection of The British Museum which encourages us to think deeper about museum collections. Brilliant. 


Thanks to Thames And Hudson for my copy of Bestiary. Opinions my own.

Blogmas 2018 · Non-Fiction

Review: Vintage Travel Posters by Gill Saunders

vintage travel

Review: Vintage Travel Posters by Gill Saunders.

By 1900, almost every town in Britain had a railway station linked to an extensive rail network. The seaside holiday, already popular in the 1800s, became big business. Resorts expanded as daytrippers and holiday-makers flocked to the sea. With the rising numbers visiting the seaside, and the expansion of the tourism industry, came a new form of art – the travel poster. 

The travel posters of the early 1900s are now highly collectible. They evoke a time when the world was expanding – when people were becoming more adventurous – but also an era when things were simpler. In the age of budget airlines and cheap package-holidays and an ever-increasing workload, it is lovely to recall the guest houses and piers of the early 20th Century. 

Vintage Travel Posters brings together 30 such posters which depict the sea. This would be a lovely book to inspire art about the sea because it shows how different one destination can look from another. From cruise ships cutting through the Atlantic to the sun reflecting off the Venice Lido, the range of posters shows how different the sea is in from one place to another. 

This is also a brilliant look at the images the tourism industry wanted to sell. What exactly were people looking for when they set out for a resort? Short paragraphs on the page opposite each poster explain the history behind it and give us an insight into a different time and place. 

I fell in love with this book. I studied seaside holidays on my very first undergraduate module and it has always been a ‘pet subject’ (AKA a random interest which makes me smile whenever I learn something more.’) This book would appeal to historians, artists and people with itchy feet. It also makes a lovely coffee-table book. Nostalgia isn’t quite the right word because it is not a time or place I have ever known, but anyone who has ever spent the day in a run-down resort and looked at the relics of the Golden Age of the seaside holiday will love this book. 


Thanks to Thames And Hudson for my copy of Vintage Travel Posters. Opinions my own. 


Review: The Beetle Collector’s Handbook by MG Leonard


Review: The Beetle Collector’s Handbook by MG Leonard

You’ve read about beetles in the Beetle Boy trilogy. Now you can learn all about them in The Beetle Collector’s Handbook. Beautifully designed and illustrated, the book is packed with information, from how to set out on a search for beetles to facts about the different species. 

When hearing MG Leonard talk in October, I became aware of two things – beetles are more fascinating than I ever realised, and children are curious and interested in the world in a way which adults forget to be. The younger members of the audience that day demonstrated a wide knowledge of our world – the sort of facts which adults dismiss as ‘trivia’. There is so much to learn on any one subject, but children understand instinctively that this is a wonderful thing. 

The handbook would appeal to anybody with an insatiable appetite for fact. It is also a fascinating read – did you know that a wheat weevil can produce over six-thousand young a year? That Bombardier beetles can produce a toxic acid? This would be a brilliant book to start a life-long interest in entomology. 

img_7403In the series a book by this title is used by the main character. This editon is designed to look like the very same copy used by Darkus, complete with his notes scribbled in the margins. This format has a particular charm and will encourage children familiar with the fiction to explore the handbook. There are in-jokes and comments which make sense to readers of the trilogy, but these are not intrusive to anyone just looking to do some research. 

The illustrations and diagrams are not only appealing, they are a good size – there is nothing worse than a non-fiction book with tiny, black-and-white drawings. The pictures draw the reader in as much as the text. More than once I stopped on a page because I saw an illustration and wanted to know more. 

This book was nominated for the Blue Peter Award, and for good reason – it is an attractive guide which links to a loved and respected trilogy. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about beetles, who loves facts or for fans of the Beetle Boy trilogy. 


Thanks to Antonia Wilkinson and Scholastic UK for my copy of The Beetle Collector’s Handbook. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Hello World Animals by Nicola Edwards and L’Atelier Cartographik

Review: Hello World Animals by Nicola Edwards and L’Atelier Cartographik


A lift-the-flap atlas which explores the wildlife by location, teaching readers simultaneously about wildlife and geography. 

The book is a large-format with thick cardboard pages. There is something exciting about holding a book this size. It demands that you settle down and get lost in its pages. Inside are eight double-page spreads: one for each continent and one introductory section.

img_7385The introduction explains that some animals have spread across the world because of their relationship with humans while others are so adaptable they can survive almost anywhere. This was an interesting start because it didn’t shy away from the fact that human activity has had an impact on wildlife. This section also introduces the seven continents, giving a hint about what is coming in the rest of the book. 

Each spread shows the map of one continent. Different animals are located on these maps, with information hidden under flaps. This interactive element will keep readers engaged and guessing what there might be to learn. Flaps also act as a great memory-game when readers are more familiar with the book. Around the maps are different fact files, with topics as varied as camouflage, the life-cycle of a butterfly and environmental crisis. 

Although the format is friendly for readers as young as four, the facts are in-depth enough that this book will satisfy much older readers and it will certainly keep the adults interested. 

A beautiful gift for any lover of wildlife or budding explorer and a wonderful way of learning more about our planet. 


Thanks to Little Tiger Press for my copy of Hello World Animals. Opinions my own.


Review: Absolutely Everything by Christopher Lloyd.


Review: Absolutely Everything by Christopher Lloyd.

Do you want to know about everything? Absolutely everything? Earth, Dinosaurs, the past, the present. It’s all covered here. This is the book for children who are hungry for facts. A cross between an encyclopedia and a trivia-book, Absolutely Everything explores any number of subjects. 

This book begins with pre-history and leads to the present day. The sections are not strictly chronological – they cover time periods which slightly overlap. This does away with the common impression that history was divided into neat sections. Historical periods overlap, with the events of one era leading directly to another. Not that this is a history book – it dips into history, science, geography, technology and politics. While this was a fabulous selection, I would have liked to see artistic and literary achievement thrown into the mix. This, of course, is the problem the author faced – there is so much worth covering in a book of this scale – and he has already embarked upon book two. 

Photographs of landscape and historical sources are mixed with illustrations. These bring topics neatly to life and make it possible to visualise things we cannot see such as deep underwater life and historical events. Maps and graphs add detail and show different ways of recording information. 

The tone of each section is conversational, which may appeal to readers who otherwise find fact books daunting. It would be a lovely book to have out in a classroom and it would make a great Christmas present for kids who want to explore the breadth of human knowledge. 

My only other thought was that the time periods are not covered in equal measures – anything pre-1500s is given more space than the modern world. Perhaps that is the charm of this book – rather than being a comprehensive guide to anything, it allows children to figure out what fascinates them and gives them just enough that they want to go in search of more information. 

A real dip-into read which will appeal to the insatiably curious. 


Thanks to Laura Smythe PR and What On Earth Books for my copy of Absolutely Everything. Opinions my own.


Review: Irreplaceable: A History Of England in 100 Places by Philip Wilkinson


Historic places represent inventions, achievements, and discoveries which have shaped the country and the world beyond. From the observatory in Greenwich to the Howarth parsonage – we are drawn to places where remarkable work has taken place. 

This book is the result of a campaign designed to promote and celebrate Britain’s historical places. The sites were chosen by 10 expert judges, including BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz and classicist and academic Mary Beard. The introduction from author and historian Bettany Hughes draws attention to the fact that, in conflict zones, similar sites have been destroyed, and suggests we should celebrate the places which represent our human experience. 

The book is divided into ten chapter which cover different disciplines. There is a chapter dedicated to places of Loss and Destruction, as well as one to Power, Protest and Progress. These chapters link back to the introduction and remind us that human progress should never be taken for granted. 

Each site is covered in a double-page spread. Photographs on one side are accompanied by information on the other. The location of each site is made clear, and the reasons for its significance are explored. I enjoyed the photography alone – Historic England holds one of the largest photographic archives in the country and many of the pictures in the book come from these archives. Reading the book made me aware of this invaluable resource which is just waiting to be explored.

I can see this being a popular coffee-table book – the entries have enough depth to be interesting but are short enough that people might enjoy flicking through. Prepare to draw up a bucket-list of places you would like to visit – the best part of reading the book as a person in the UK was knowing how many of these sites were just outside my doorstep. 


Thanks to Historic England and MidasPR for my copy of Irreplaceable: A History Of England in 100 Places. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto


Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

A flock of birds. A troop of monkeys. Peek under each flap to discover different animals, learn fun facts about their species and uncover a great big hide and seek game. With five different flaps and ten things to find in each spread, this book will keep young explorers happy for hours. 

I adore this book because it is a fact-file which is accessible to very young readers. Before we read paragraphs and sentences, before we even recognise letters, we have positive experiences with books. Hide-and-seek games are a wonderful way to share time with children. They are also brilliant for keeping kids entertained and they encourage children to be observant. Trusting that information is on the page, even if we can’t initially see it, is an important step to analytical-thinking. 

peekandseek2The short facts on each spread will encourage reading skills and help children to take an interest in wildlife. With more people than ever out of touch with nature, it is important that we use books and media to pass on our knowledge and vocabulary of the natural landscape. 

Peek And Seek is bold and colourful, with appealing illustrations. Each spread takes us straight into the landscape of the different species, from the snowy mountains where the wolves hunt to the burrows and tunnels beneath tree-roots where rabbits hide their food. There is lots to be learned from the illustrations alone: which other species can be found in a habit, what sort of home the animals keep and whereabouts in the world they might be found. The illustrations promote huge amounts of conversation which will teach children about the natural world. 

An attractive and engaging book which demands to be shared and enjoyed together. 


Many thanks to Antonia Wilkinson and Dorling Kindersley Limited for my copy of Peek And Seek. Opinions my own.