5 illustrated books about the great outdoors.
Outdoor adventures are wonderful at any time of year, but with spring on the way there has never been a better time to put on those wellies or walking boots and embrace the great outdoors.
The books reviewed here are all about nature, but they all focus on a different lens. Which would be of most interest to you? If you were stepping outside today, what would you want to think about or see?
The Green Giant by Katie Cottle
Bea is visiting Grandad in the countryside. She loves his wild garden and sitting in the great outdoors. When her dog runs off, Bea discovers a greenhouse full of wild treasures and befriends the Green Giant.
One the Green Giant roamed the city, but it became too grey and difficult to breathe. He gives Bea some seeds in the hope that one day the city will become greener again.
A timely fairytale about the decreasing awareness of nature in urban populations.
It is not enough to know facts. It takes something more to move humans into action, and that is empathy. Care. As readers empathise with the giant, pushed away from the city by the inaction of humans, they take the first steps into caring about nature.
This is an irresistible book. I adore children’s stories about visitors, particularly ones like the giant whose plight makes us reconsider our own attitudes, but this one stands out with its gentle narrative and a colour-palette of greens and yellows taken straight from the natural world.
Katie Cottle’s publication deal came about after she won a prize, and she is a talent to watch.
A Walk Through Nature: A Clover Robin peek-through book. Written by Libby Walden.
Nature is all around us. Over and under and beneath our feet. How often do we take the time to look at the natural world?
The format of this book allows us to pick a landscape or microhabitat – a beach, the nighttime sky or a single log – and to look closer at the life which might be found in that setting. The second page of every double-page spread has an extra flap. This opens out to reveal a second full-page illustration and a bank of information.
This would make a lovely book for less confident readers. With each fact limited to three or four sentences, it is less daunting than many non-fiction books. That the fact files can be ignored in favour of a rhyming text which runs through the book is another plus. This would make a lovely bedtime book, with the information introduced in little bursts.
I adore the illustrations. A muted background makes them stand out, and I love the visible brushstrokes and different textures. This would be a lovely book to look at ahead of painting, especially studies of leaves and fields.
When The Stars Come Out by Nicola Edwards and Lucy Cartwright.
What is the night? Why does it even happen and how come the moon is there and why do stars appear?
This book not only answers the questions commonly asked by children about the night, it goes beyond to explore the night time through different lenses. The book is divided into four sections: The Sky At Night, The Earth At Night, Animals At Night and Humans at Night. The chapter divisions work well, allowing the activity in different habits to be explored separately from biological facts about animals. There is also a short introductory section which deals with the physics of sunrise and sunset.
What strikes me immediately about this volume is that it is visually stunning. Both the illustrations and the design are of the highest quality, and every double-page spread is a feast for the eye. It is the sort of book which you want to open at random and delve into. Leave it in a book corner or face out on a library shelf and it will be snapped up by curious readers.
It would also be a lovely art prompt, especially because it celebrates the range of colours associated with nighttime. It goes well beyond the midnight black, celebrating lilacs and pale blues and light orange hues.
There is just enough information on every topic, and what is there is insightful. It never scrimps on depth but challenges the reader with facts which will be new to many adult readers. I also adore the mixture of biology, physics, geography and myth.
A treat for younger and older readers, this will expand the reader’s worldview and encourage them to look harder at the night sky.
Beneath The Waves by Helen Ahpornsiri
Journey through the world’s oceans and take a close up look at their inhabitants.
The art in this book is made from pressed seaweeds, coastal flowers and a smaller number of garden plants. The beauty of it struck me before I had turned a single page. The plants are brought to life, their colours and shapes working together to show animals from under the water and around the seashore.
The information in this book is divided into four sections: Coast, Open Ocean, Tropics and Polar Waters. These four chapters help readers to understand that, like the land, the waters have different climates depending on where they are in the world.
Each animal or subject is given two or three paragraphs. Identifying features, diets, habitats and breeding are all introduced.
With STEM subjects sometimes receiving more attention than the arts, I am always delighted to find books which promote the two together. After all, where would science be if people hadn’t once spent time observing and drawing what they saw? Where would technology be if mankind hadn’t learned to imagine?
The illustrations in this book push the bounds of what has been done in children’s literature before. They are extraordinary and worthy of celebration.
The Lost Book Of Adventure by Unknown Adventurer.
Imagine getting out into the wilderness. Really getting out, beyond the bounds of the known, and living outdoors.
This is the ultimate compendium of outdoor survival knowledge, taken from the notebooks of an unknown adventurer. Starting with the basics, form how to pack for camp, this incredible volume offers insights on everything from first aid to rafting to panning for gold.
It is also a love letter. A nostalgia for adventures of the past and a reminder of the skills and knowledge which was once common-place.
Advice and diagrams are alternated with insights into outdoor adventures. This makes the volume friendly and accessible to dreamers as well as to serious explorers. Beautiful colour pictures allow the reader a snapshot of the world which awaits us if only we set foot out of the door.
I am shamelessly in love with this book, which offers me plenty of material and information as an aspiring writer. This would be a priceless resource for starting off adventure stories, and I love the tone of the book which claims to speak from direct experience.
If we as a society are to embrace nature and get back out into the wild, we need to remember the old skills which allowed expeditions in the past. The Lost Book Of Adventure will open new eyes to the outdoors.
Many thanks to Little Tiger Press, Quarto Books, Big Picture Press, Pavillion Children’s Books, Catherine Ward PR and Antonia Wilkinson PR for gifting the books reviewed in this feature. Opinions remain my own.