Book reviews - nature (page 2)

We have reviewed here a selection of books to encourage children to get out and about and enjoy the world around them. Gardening is a super way to encourage children to spend time outside, with the added benefit of growing your own food.

Little Fish: A Carousel Book​ by Emily Rand

Untie the ribbon, open out the carousel book then tie the ribbon again to revel in Emily Rand's beautiful illustrations. There are five layered scenes in spectacular neon colours, with attractive peep-throughs showing the adventures of two little fish as they escape the dangers of bigger fish. The cover can be tied back so the book stands on its own. A spectacular look at life beneath the waves.

When the Bees Buzzed Off! by Lula Bell

The busy cover of this book with its big peep-through hole is a great incentive to children to pick the book up. Something is wrong... the bugs can't find any bees anywhere. It's up to the minibeasts to search for the bees - and this gives the book an excellent link to that perennially popular Early Years topic. Children will love to explore under the fun flaps, and will respond well to the fascinating facts and hilarious asides (in the form of speech bubbles from the insects) which are found liberally through the book. This is an ideal book to encourage young children to think about important environmental issues presented in a way that will be easy for them to understand. The bright and engaging illustrations are by talented illustrator Stephen Bennett. It's good to see that the plight of bees is being addressed in books for children, highlighting this critical issue and making children aware of the importance of bees to our world.

In Focus... Forests by Libby Walden

This colourful book takes a novel approach by incorporating the work of ten illustrators who discover and uncover the world of woodlands and forests. The large format flap-out pictures give plenty of scope to the colourful pages which explain and explore the creatures, culture, and conservation of our forested areas. There are many different ec osystems included - the Black Forest, kelp forests, national parks and mangrove forests are just some. Each illustrator brings their own style and this really makes the book fascinating, and the pictures are accompanied by plenty of informative text. I'm really impressed with the lively approach of the 360 Degrees books from Little Tiger - they present non-fiction in an alluring way that captures children's interest.

National Trust: Who's Hiding in the Woods? ​by Katherine McEwen

Another book in the highly successful collaboration between the National Trust and Nosy Crow, this time encouraging young children to explore animal life in woods. The delightful collage-style illustrations conceal more than 20 flaps for young ones to explore, on tree trunks, under log piles and in the leaves, with all sorts of creatures hiding beneath them. Each flap reveals a snippet of information too, adding to the value of the book. It's a lovely introduction to nature with friendly animals, attractive scenes and plenty of facts.

Sunflower Shoots and Muddy Boots by Katherine Halligan

Our children are, sadly, becoming detached from the natural world as restrictions on freedom and space have their impact. But there's plenty we can do to redress this balance, as this child's guide to gardening shows. Whether children have space at home, or have opportunities for growing at school, there are lots of ideas, all explained clearly step-by-step. The book is packed with interesting facts - how about edible flowers - and useful tips - how to check when plants need watering. There are also spotters' guides for plants and insects, and practical advice, for example on making compost. With a practical spiral binding, plenty of illustrations to inspire, and tough board pages, this is a great way to get children to engage with nature. An ideal first gardening book. As an avid NT supporter, I've watched with keen interest as the National Trust have become increasingly family-friendly, and the collaboration with Nosy Crow, which ensures there are lots of exceptional children's books in NT shops, is great evidence of this.

National Trust: Out and About Bird Spotter - A children's guide to over 100 different birds

There's just the right level of detail here for aspiring bird watchers of 8+, with plenty to encourage them to get outside and spot birds. The book starts with practical advice and the basics on how to get started, plus information on habitats, nests and identification. The book is divided into sections - waders and sonmgbirds, for example - to help identification. For each species, there's a colourful and accurate picture, plus a description and basic fact files. A useful glossary and extensive index are good features in this ideal introduction to birdwatching.

A Walk Through Nature: A Clover Robin Peek-Through Book by Libby Walden

The natural world around us changes almost day by day, and each month shows dramatic changes. Sadly, many children are out of touch with nature and become unaware of these changes and of their impact on our lives. An interesting extract from the Press Release: 'In 2015, a group of authors raised concerns about the loss of around 50 words relating to nature and the countryside from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.' This book is one of those which sets out to redress that balance. With gatefold pages for each month, enticing peep-throughs and detailed collage-style illustrations, the book combines poetry and facts to give us a lovely introduction to nature for young ones, to ignite their interest and encourage them to be observers. With captions throughout, there's plenty to spot, enjoy and learn.

Plant, Sow, Make and Grow by Esther Coombs

These are mud-tastic activities for blooming gardeners, designed to encourage young children to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as showing them a range of creative ideas to complement the growing. The book shows that we can all succeed, with the minimum of equipment or previous experience. Get little gardeners growing and learning with this beautifully illustrated book, packed with information and crafty stuff to do. Help them to discover that gardening can be simple and uncomplicated with very little equipment and prior knowledge needed. The book is arranged around the cycle of the seasons - what to grow, how to sow seeds and how to harvest. There are tips about encouraging wildlife as well. It introduces many key gardening principles, such as making compost, companion planting and thinning out - s o much is covered! Complementing the growing, there are lots of recycling ideas to make useful gardening accessories and other decorative craft activities, including build a bug house and leaf art work. The chatty friendly style is really encouraging, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow, perfect to build confidence. Informative, approachable and beautifully presented, it's a book that will encourage all aspiring gardeners. Published by Button Books, ISBN 9781787080249, March 2019.

From Tiny Seeds: The Amazing Story of How Plants Travel​ by Emilie Vast

Children will be amazed by the many and varied methods plants use to ensure their seeds are dispersed to ensure continuation of their species. From exploding violets to swimming water lilies, from bouncing conkers to hitch-hiking burdock, plants go on amazing journeys, and children can explore many of these for themselves if they take this book out into nature. The book describes and illustrates the many wonderful ways that seeds can travel and watch as they grow into brand new plants. The illustrations are delicate and beautiful, capturing plants and animals perfectly, and the text is lyrical and informative. A book to delight all ages.

Love Bees: A family guide to help keep bees buzzing - With games, stickers and more by Vanessa Amaral-Rogers

​ Bee colonies are declining - such an important topic, and what a great way to make the whole family aware of the plight of bees and to learn what they can do to help. The theme of the book is what we can do to help bees, and it shows us how to do this through a whole swarm of engaging facts and fun activities. The book shows us how to identify bees and which flowers they pollinate - this is great information for gardeners and an important message to share with children when we choose what to plant. It also shows us what materials bees need to make their homes and how to keep bees. There's lots of bee-themed fun to be had - make a bee hotel or B-line nectar corridor, and play the Waggle Dance board game. The book is full of encouragement to help us care for this essential and precious part of our lives, attractively presented to encourage reading followed by action. Use the stickers to share the message!

The Sea Book from DK

Following on from The Bee Book, the author brings us another highly informative book designed to highlight the wonders of nature and the way we can all share in caring for it. The attractive presentation gives the information is easily assimilated chunks, accompanied by colourful and informative drawings. It covers the whole range of marine life, mammals, fish, invertebrates and reptiles, and introduces their habitats. From the ice on top to the barely explored depths, there are a whole world of wonders to explore. The book highlights the important ecological issues faced by our planet and the damaging effects humans are having on our seas. To help them play their part, Children will discover what they can do to help, including living plastic-free. Children will even get to craft their own recycled shopping bag. A highly relevant book which will encourage children to think about conservation.

Wilderness: Earth's Amazing Habitats by Mia Cassany

Through Jungle,  Rain Forest, Tundra, Taiga, Savanna, and Desert, this wonderful giant-sized book explores some of the most remarkable habitats on earth - and very usefully, children can put them all into context through the world map at the front. Marcos Navarro's stunning and intricately detailed illustrations show the diversity of our planet from Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park, Russia's Sikhote-Alin mountain range, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka, Daintree National Park in Australia, to the Mexican desert, and China's bamboo forests. As they enjoy the illustrations, children are challenged to spot the animals, birds and insects, big and small, hidden on the pages - more than 20 on each. The text on each page is complemented by additional information at the end of the book, describing each spread back of the book is filled with additional information about the animals and their habitats. A wonderful book which will absorb children for hours.

The Gruffalo Autumn and Winter Nature Trail (Gruffalo Explorers) based on the books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Encourage children to get out and about whetever the weather with this bind-up pof two separate books. The themed outdoor activities are complemented by over 400 stickers which give plenty of opportunity for creativity and creating themed pictures. Ideal to support Foundation Stage and KS1 learning, the book encourages children to really engage with nature and to become aware of all the outside world has to offer.Children (and their adults) are encouraged to stop, look, listen and collect (always with an awareness of leaving plenty behind); it's a great way to find out what to look out for. It's an approachable way to enjoy nature whether children live in town or country and there's lots of opportunity for children to record their own findings, making a lasting record.

Sounds of Nature: World of Forests by Robert Hunter

By listening carefully and enjoying the pictures of the creatures at the same time, children can explore the sounds made by over 60 creatures in a range of forests. 10 diverse habitats are explored, including the Amazon Rainforest, Redwood National Park, the UKs New Forest and the Boreal Forest of Alaska. Simply press the page to hear the sounds of animals around the world, as you look at the numbered pictures and read the brief descriptive text. The sounds are clear and easy to distinguish one from another and children will find this book fascinating with the detailed illustrations coupled with sounds; it shows how wonderfully varied forests are.

Know Your Nature: British Wildlife by Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington

I love the books produced by Fine Feather Press - they are so relevant to children and a real encouragement to get outside and enjoy nature. Sadly, in today's busy world, children's ability to recognise the even most common plants and animals is rapidly disappearing; adults too will really benefit from the clear identification guides in this book. With over 150 animals and plants including birds, insects, mammals, trees, flowers, shells, fish, butterflies, moths, reptiles, amphibians, all the common things we should know are included - and because they are relatively common, we should all be able to find most of them, making the book even more relevant. This durable board book, ideal to take out and about, is split into sections including water birds, wild flowers, butterflies and fish. With 10 to spot on each page, there's plenty for children to look out for. Atrractive photos are accompanied by brief descriptions and I love the quiz at the end - children are encouraged to try this before reading the book, to see how much they know. A lovely book to encourage children to observe nature.

Dance, Dolphin, Dance: A California Ocean Adventure by Patricia MacCarthy

The beautifully painted pictures with their strong colours and wonderful evocation of undersea life are the stand-out features of this book. Deep down in the ocean's kelp forest, Dolphin dances with sea lions - but then life becomes dangerous when he encounters a Great White Shark and a Killer Whale. He must dance for his life, through the deep waters, to keep safe. This is a dramatic underwater chase, set in the Pacific Ocean, with 36 sea creatures and birds to spot, including the Red Octopus, Blue Cannonball Jellyfish, Crowned Squirrelfish and the Sea Otter. They are all shown at the end of the book for children to identify by the labels and then spot in the story. Beautifully done and we must emphasise to children the need to care for this beauty.

Natural Wonders of the World by Molly Oldfield

Discover 30 marvels of Planet Earth with this awesome book which can only enhance your appreciation for the marvels of nature. There are many places and creatures here that may well be new to the reader, and it's fabulous to see these showcased. From firefly squid glowing against the night sky in Japan to a Mexican cave filled with the largest crystals ever found, learn about the incredible stories and science behind these wonders. Importantly, we also learn about the threats they face and the efforts to save them. The book does a good job of highlighting the environmental threats. The superb photographs, which often spread over a page and a half of this generously sized book, are an integral and vital part of the book and they really do show the full glory of the wonders described. A beautiful book, full of fascinating facts.

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