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Animals and Animal Behaviour

A to Z of Animals
Illustrated by Peter David Scott
(Templar)
This stunningly beautiful book takes you through the alphabet, illustrating the letters with paintings of wild animals. After you've reached Z, you find another section with amazing facts about each of the animals, illustrated this time with line drawings. The magnificent artwork and animal information combine well to produce a book that will appeal to parents and older brothers and sisters as well as those young enough to enjoy an alphabet book.
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Zoo-ology
by Joelle Jolivet
(Egmont)
There is a wealth of information crammed between the hardcovers of this amazing pictorial encyclopaedia of the animal kingdom, printed on sturdy tinted paper. It documents and groups over three hundred and fifty different creatures, great and small, in various thematic categories, including habitats, external features, habits and colouring. For instance, a shrimp appears in both ‘On the sea-bed’ and ‘Large and small’ and the kiwi is both ‘Underground’ and ‘Feathered’. With its striking artwork is in the style of wood cuts, this veritable treasure trove of a book is guaranteed to open the mind, stimulate thought and discussion and encourage close observation.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Tracks of a Panda
by Mick Dowson, illustrated by Yu Rong
(Walker Books)
This is a narrative information book about the first year in the life of a Giant Panda cub and his mother. The poetic language and distinctively Chinese and painterly illustrations make this a picture book to be enjoyed for its own sake as much as for the information it imparts.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Elephant’s Story
by Harriet Blackford & Manja Stojic
(Boxer Books)
This picture book is an information narrative telling of a young African elephant calf’s growth on the African savannah. We learn how her mother cares for her as she makes her early steps and how she is also part of a huge extended family where all are ready to protect her if danger threatens. There are many things a young elephant has to learn including controlling her trunk when drinking and eating and before long she is even able to wash herself. When a new baby is born she helps to care for it; but one day Elephant herself has rescue the newest calf from deadly danger.
   The broad sweep and changing colours of the African savannah are dramatically executed in oil pastels.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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White Owl, Barn Owl
by Nicola Davies illustrated by Michael Foreman
(Walker Books)
There’s all the information a young ornithologist needs to know about the barn owl in this first person narrative, in which knowledge about the owl, its characteristics and habits, is imparted in an easy conversational style (with additional information given in handwritten annotations). A small girl is taken by her grandfather to fix a nest box in an old oak tree in a meadow. Together they find and dissect an owl pellet, see an owl at close quarters and watch it hunt and raise a family.
   There is something magical and mysterious about these wonderful creatures, which is conveyed in the descriptive language and in Michael Foreman’s marvellous ghostly illustrations. This is non-fiction for the young at its best.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Tigress
by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
(Walker Books)
W riter and teacher, Nick Dowson, is passionate about tigers and obviously knows how to captivate and hold the interest of young children. By talking directly to them, using both everyday images – ‘Bigger than your fist, her pink nose sniffs the air.’ … ‘Small as a sugar bag at birth, baby tigers drink rich mother’s milk and fill up like fat furry cushions - and dramatic descriptions – ‘Like fire the roaring tigress leaps and falls in a crush of teeth and muscle,’ or ‘A pattern of gliding stripes slides into the trees and the mother disappears’- he succeeds in imparting just the right amount of information and engendering awe and wondering. And at the same time, perhaps most importantly, the children are encouraged to think, to discuss and to question.
There are two kinds of text. Iin larger font, using the present continuous tense, the main storyline gives detals of the everyday life of a mother tiger from the time she seeks out a new den from where, over weeks and months, she nurtures her cubs till, after a year and a half the brother and sister are ready to find their own homes. On each double spread, in smaller italics, are further, ‘bite-size’ chunks of information and embedded in these are scientific terms such as camouflage, predators, prey and territory.
Perfectly complementing the text are Jane Chapman’s arrestingly powerful visual images, seemingly painted on mango patterned coloured papers. Every page is alive with colour and movement capturing the very essence of the tiger and its habitat. There is a final spread giving brief additional information about the threat to the tiger population, an index and a paragraph each on the author and illustrator.
Not to be missed this one.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Comparing Giraffes and Polar Bears
by Bobbie Neate
(Neate Publishing)
Each double page spread in this book has a left hand page about polar bears and a right hand one containing the equivalent information on giraffes. It's up to the reader to do the actual comparison by, for instance, spotting that both animals have seven vertebrae in their necks or that polar bears are carnivores while giraffes are herbivores. The information is clear and easy to read but sufficiently interesting that even an adult is likely to learn something new. (I know I did.) It's also carefully written to make the book as useful as possible in teaching literacy and science with good teaching ideas included on page flaps in the teacher and parent edition. This technique makes the ideas readily accessible but also successfully separates them from the main text so this edition can also be used by a child. The glossary is excellent with clear definitions which don't involve other difficult words.
An excellent book ideal for the classroom or home.
Ages 7-11 and older children with special needs.
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The Emperor's Egg
by Martin Jenkins Illustrated by Jane Chapman
(Walker)
This worthy winner of the TES Junior Information Book of the Year is non-fiction written in a way guaranteed to capture children's attention. It tells how male Emperor Penguins incubate the egg and look after the chick until mum returns. Although it's a factual account not a fictionalised story, it's full of details and comments that children love. For instance - "As soon as things have calmed down, the mother penguin is sick - right into her chick's mouth. Yuk, you may think. Yum, thinks the chick." The excellent pictures combine beautifully with the text to produce a very useful and enjoyable book.
Ages 3-8 and older children with special needs
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Little Turtle and the Song of the Sea
by Sheridan Cain. Illustrated by Norma Burgin
(Little Tiger Press)
This beautiful picture book tells the tale of a baby turtle hatching from his egg and making his way across the beach to the sea which is calling him home. The well structured story builds in tension as the turtle meets one problem after another and the text, with its repeating rhythm of the sea's song, is easy to read aloud. Add to this the wonderful illustrations and the end result is a book which is a delight for its own sake as well as for its links to studying the environment.
Ages 3-6 and older children with special needs
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