Days Out · Non-Fiction

Review: 2020 Nature Month-By-Month by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz.

Review: 2020 Nature Month-By-Month by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz.

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The earliest Almanacs, according to the introduction to this one, were created over 3000 years ago. They were created by Ancient Egyptians, who listed dates that were thought to be lucky and unlucky. They were also used to help farmers know when to plant seeds and harvest crops. 

2020 Nature Month-By-Month takes inspiration from earlier almanacs but is catered to the modern-day and especially to children. It lists special days – from religious festivals to bank holidays – but it also suggests different activities to help its readers connect with the outdoors at different times of the year. 

The National Trust preserves some of the most special places in the UK, from coastline to land, to historic parks and gardens. According to its website, it believes that everybody has the right to escape to the outdoors. This comes across in this book, which goes to great efforts to suggest activities suitable to people in different areas and situations. We live in a society where fewer people than ever have outdoor spaces of their own and where cities are increasingly crowded and difficult to escape at a weekend. However, if we look around, we can find outdoors to interact with, even if it is the clouds above us and the puddles beneath our feet, and we can engage in activities that make us friends of the outdoors. 

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As the title suggests, the pages are divided up by the month. Each month begins with a list of dates and anniversaries and then is separated into short sections about festivals, walks, birds, nightlife and craft among others. These sections are a page or two long but they are beautifully detailed. Although this is aimed at children lots of information would be of interest to a wide age range, making it perfect for families to share. 

The pages are beautifully illustrated with pictures of plants and animals and people enjoying outdoor spaces. Almanacs are one of the places to traditionally link illustration with nature and it is encouraging to see this continue. The art so clearly comes from observation and it makes the reader want to get outside and do some looking around of their own. 

Not only is this full of wonderful ideas, beautiful illustrations and fascinating facts, but it is a handy size perfect for slipping into a pocket or a rucksack. Get your walking boots or wellies on and prepare for a year of outdoor adventure fun. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow in association with The National Trust for my copy of 2020 Nature Month-By-Month. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Guardians Of The Planet – How To Be An Eco-Hero by Clive Gifford and Jonathan Woodward.

Review: Guardians Of The Planet – How To Be An Eco-Hero by Clive Gifford and Jonathan Woodward.

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Our planet is experiencing a climate crisis. Plastic pollutes the ocean, air pollution is reaching higher and higher levels, and entire species are disappearing every single day. It is enough to make anyone feel powerless, and yet all the power is in our hands. It is up to humans to change their habits, and this book gives young eco-warriors some great ideas about where to start. 

This book is so important, for people who feel that they don’t have a clue as well as for committed activists. 

The great thing about Guardians Of The Planet is it outlines the issues behind the climate crisis as well as giving readers ideas about practical things they can do to make changes in their daily habits. It is easy to think these things won’t make any difference, but rest assured that as people change their habits, so will businesses, and as businesses change their habits it will put vast pressure on politicians and world leaders. Sometimes change really does start with many tiny actions such as buying rechargeable batteries or leaving those plastic bags behind. 

Seven chapters cover different issues affecting our planets – home consumption, energy usage, food waste, water supplies, ocean pollution, forestry, and wildlife extinction. First the chapters outline the difficulties and then look at the different areas of our lives which touch on these issues. For example, we all know that water is used in the shower and kitchen, but some readers might forget that food production is a major source of water waste too. One practical suggestion is to keep a water butt and grow some fruit and veg. 

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The book strikes the right tone, taking the issues seriously while remaining upbeat about our chance to help. It is more important than ever that young people feel empowered to care for the environment. The current generation will be the last with any realistic chance to help unless we act now. Making people feel happy that starting now is always a positive thing is important. 

Jonathan Woodward’s illustrations make this an appealing book to dip into, with full-colour pages broken up by bursts of text. More importantly, some of the pictures illustrate the problems faced by our planet without the full graphic horror of photographs. Being able to visualise what something means is important in conversations about the planet, but this book also respects the age of its target readers. The result will be that they want to help but aren’t left with nightmares. 

This book is a rallying call to young readers to help the planet. It is also a guidebook and a helping hand so that they know where to start. 

 

Thanks to Buster Books (In support Of Client Earth) for my copy of Guardians Of The Planet – How To Be An Eco-Hero. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Atlas Of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell.

Review: Atlas Of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell.

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Our planet is home to some amazing birds. Open your eyes and meet the true wonders of the world. Knowing about the birds we share our planet with encourages us to care about their wellbeing. 

This is divided into seven sections and introduces the birdlife of eight continents. Each section begins with a map, making this part Atlas, part guidebook. As a whole, with its jewel-bright illustrations and informative fact files, it is a book to marvel over. 

It is the images that make the book. The full-colour images draw the eye as soon as the book is opened. The style is a play on scientific drawings – flat, and forward-facing, they are certainly there is no pretence at a story or pose. However, they are also filled with a certain character which makes it possible to imagine them coming to life and to picture how they might move. This one would glide, for example, and that one flutter. 

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Each entry includes the scientific name and the common one. The common one comes first which not only allows readers to spot the familiar but to marvel over a vocabulary which is in danger of becoming lost. Two or three paragraphs accompany the names. These are well-written and explain where the bird might be found and introducing some of its habits. 

In organising the birds by continent, the book also introduces the idea that we adapt to our habitats. Flicking through, it is impossible not to notice similarities and differences between the birds, and discussing how all the small, bright birds live in warm places, for example, would open an interesting conversation with young readers. 

A page at the back includes a glossary of bird-related terms and suggestions for songs featuring birds. This is such a lovely touch and would make a wonderful ‘next activity’ after reading. 

This is the kind of book which helps a reader form a love with a new subject. After looking through the pages, it is impossible not to want to spot birds in the real world and to know more about the birds which live far away. 

The perfect holiday gift for a young nature enthusiast or for readers who just love a beautiful book. 

 

Thanks to Pavilion Children’s Books for my copy of Atlas Of Amazing Birds. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies by James Olstein.

Review: Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies by James Olstein.

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Brains, bones, and bogies. Our bodies are brilliant and there is so much we don’t know about ourselves. 

Did you know that your teeth are as hard as a shark’s? That the muscles in your oesophagus could push food into your stomach even if you were hanging upside down? Did you know that stomach acid is powerful enough to dissolve metal? Between the trivia and the fantastic illustrations, this is the kind of book which hooks the reader and keeps them flicking. 

The genius of this is some of the facts would be covered by a standard biology lesson, while others would probably be classed as trivia. Once hooked, the reader doesn’t care which is which and will absorb information without question. 

The books in this series are a lovely size, perfect for slipping into a backpack or holding with smaller hands. 

I have reviewed a book in this series before and was impressed with the retro-style illustrations and limited colour palette. The energy and humour keep the book right up to date, and the overall effect is striking. This is the sort of book which adults want to buy for children just because of the design. It would also appeal to a broad age-range because it is impossible to resist picking the book up. 

A great addition to a series which makes scientific facts fun. 

 

Thanks to Pavilion Books and Catherine Ward PR for my gifted copy of Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies. Opinions my own. 

Non-Fiction

Review: The Language Of The Universe by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadía.

Review: The Language Of The Universe by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadía.

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Maths can feel confusing. At times in my childhood, it felt like nothing more than memorising a string of processes, the use of each was more obscure than the last. Yet maths is the language of the universe. It is written into nature, into the laws of physics and into modern-day technology. 

This beautiful book introduces the places where maths can be found. It reminds us that maths is about more than examinations. It is a magical, complex language. One waiting to be explored. 

Four sections divide the book into topics: 

  • Maths In The Natural World
  • Physics, Chemistry and Engineering. 
  • Space. 
  • Technology. 

Within each section, different concepts are explored through beautiful double-page spreads. 

There are gems of information inside this book which will make you look at the world in a whole new way. Did you know that female pufferfish examine the patterns a male makes in the sand on the ocean floor? The female looks for the most geometrically perfect patterns when selecting a partner. And did you know that you could lift the Earth up and turn it (if only you were positioned with a lever billions of light-years long)? Fascinating facts like this make it impossible to not want to know the principles. 

The illustration and design is undoubtedly part of the attraction of this book. Pages are cleverly divided into different sections with shapes and colours which attract the eye. The retro-style pictures are attractive and fun and make spreads which deal with complex ideas feel more welcoming to novices. 

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What also makes the book fantastic is that is doesn’t once water down its subject matter. The book is certainly aimed at a younger audience, but it doesn’t ever give the impression that children might be reluctant to learn. Sections of text are kept short – one or two paragraphs at a time – but the principles are explained and illustrated in sensible and engaging language. The book takes its readers seriously, unlike so many books on complex subjects which resort to heavy-handed humour to engage readers. If information is presented in an engaging way, people are often eager to know more. 

A stunning introduction to the way mathematics underpins our world. Numbers are part of our history, of our make-up and of our communication. Books like this remind us that to study them is a great adventure. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press for my gifted copy of The Language Of The Universe. Opinions my own.

 

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: When Sue Found Sue by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka

Review: When Sue Found Sue by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka

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Sue Hendrickson was born to find things. From the moment she was a little girl, she was on the lookout for curious objects to take home and study. The shy, intelligent child grew into an explorer, and in 1990 Sue Hendrickson found a whole T-Rex skeleton in the cliffs of South Dakota. Her team decided that the fossil should be named after Sue. 

A real-life story about a woman who lived her passions.

The first thing I loved about When Sue Found Sue was it didn’t push the inspirational narrative. Recently there have been such a number of books about inspirational lives that the phrase has lost all meaning. When Sue Found Sue begins with a shy, studious kid who found a way to follow her interests as an adult. I prefer these authentic life stories because the whole reason to tell them is to show that great things start with passion and drive. 

The illustrations hint at Sue’s love for the outdoors. Even when she is inside, there are trees and birds visible through the windows, and when she is outdoors she appears to be part of the great sweeping landscapes and underwater worlds. A double spread picture of the fossil brings to live the enormity of what Sue Hendrickson found. 

A note at the back puts the story into context and discusses the ethical questions raised by the fossil’s ‘discovery’. My favourite quote says simply that, at one point, only Sue Hendrickson didn’t believe she owned Sue [the fossil]. Regardless of how other people behaved, Sue  Hendrickson respected the world’s treasures. 

A wonderful introduction to Sue’s story and the kind of book which makes readers want to get up and follow their own passion. 

 

Thanks to Abrams Books for my gifted copy of When Sue Found Sue. Opinions my own. 

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Meet The Pirates by James Davies.

Review: Meet The Pirates by James Davies.

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Yarr! Prepare for a voyage of discovery on the seven seas. Everybody has an image of pirates from films and stories, but who were the real-life pirates across history? What does piracy involve? Meet The Pirates is an accessible and humorous introduction to a favourite topic. 

From the Vikings to the modern day pirates with GPS systems, the book is like  a time-line of piracy. 

img_8171This book continues an already popular series which looks at the periods of history covered by the KS2 curriculum. It is easy to see why the series has taken off. The books are highly visual and the information is broken up by the illustrations. Each page contains a short amount of text. It is easy to make the mistake of looking for non-fiction books which match a child’s fictional reading skills, but readers have limited patience when they are learning new facts. The information needs to be broken up, and what is there needs to be written in such a way that it is engaging and memorable, without skimping on the content. 

The limited colour-palette of the illustrations makes the book look trendy and modern. They still manage to incorporate a lot of information, from the kind of pistol Blackbeard carried to the sails on different ships. The illustrations are as informative as the text. 

I love the features of the book. The title of each topic is written down both sides of every spread, so readers can flick through and find the relevant information with ease. As well as informative illustrations, such as a map of trading routes and an image gallery of different types of ship, there are cartoons and humorous illustrations. The importance of comedy in children’s books can’t be stressed enough. For many readers, these cartoons are the reward for taking in new information.

This will doubtless be a hit with teachers and librarians, but it would also make a lovely introduction to the topic for children who have shown an interest in pirates fictional or otherwise. I am hugely impressed with these books and look forward to sharing my review of Meet The Ancient Greeks. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press for my copy of Meet The Pirates.