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.

Adventures on Earth​ by Simon Tyler

Graphic illustrator Simon Tyler explores the extremes of our planet - and the people who venture there - in his bold and colourful style Following on from the magnificent Adventures in Space, comes a compendium on a topic closer to home - our planet, the Earth. Learn about the highest and deepest, hottest and coldest places on Earth - travel to the extremes of our environment. Discover the world's most wild terrain - deserts, mountains, volcanoes, rivers, jungles, oceans, the polar regions and more - as well as the animals that live there and the people who have explored them. Find out how these regions are under threat from global warming and other issues, and learn what we can do to conserve them. Bursting with information and illustrated in bold and colourful graphics, this book will grab the attention of all avid explorers - big and small.

The Wonders of Nature by DK Children

Discover the wonderful world of nature and learn about some of the most amazing rocks and minerals, microscopic life, plants, and animals on Earth. From opals to orchids and tapirs to toadstools, this beautiful collection brings more than 100 examples from the natural world to life. Every page reveals fantastic photography and gorgeous illustrations as well as surprising facts and stories you won't forget.

Animals Up Close: Animals as you've Never Seen them Before by DK Children

See the world's most fascinating animals closer and more vividly than you've ever seen before, through stunning, larger-than-life photography in this modern DK classic. Young readers will be fascinated by stories such as the crab that carries its home on its back, or the salamander that turns from a fish into an amphibian as it grows. They will be absorbed by the incredible detail showcased in these amazing images, from the fine structure of bird's feathers to the neon green scales of a gecko. Fun, flowing text delivers in-depth information about life in different habitats and how animals have adapted to thrive in these places. Innovative, contemporary design and DK's characteristically reliable and interesting information combine in Animals Up Close to create the perfect nature book for children.

Animal Homes: A lift-the-flap book of discovery (A Clover Robin Book of Nature)

Welcome to the wonderful world of animal homes, incredible habitats where creatures rest high above our heads, and where burrowing beasts dig deep into the earth below our feet. Lift the flaps in this beautifully illustrated book to uncover some astonishing homes and the animals that live within.

There are Bugs Everywhere​ by Lily Murray

There are bugs everywhere! Some of them live in jungles, some of them underwater, and some certainly live in your house. There are Bugs Everywhere is the second in a series of non-fiction books from Britta Teckentrup. Young readers will learn where in the world all sorts of animals can be found and all the weird and wonderful things about them that they never imagined were true. This is non-fiction with spark and personality from a much-loved illustrator.

Out and About Night Explorer by Nosy Crow

Again, this is one of Nosy Crow's superb collaborations with the National Trust, so you can be guaranteed a superb book to enhamnce children's appreciation of the natural world. This is a guide to over 100 insects, animals, birds and stars. The great thing is, that we can all onserve some of these, whether we live in town or country - even just looking out of the window! As well as guides to indetification, which are clearly set against dark backgrounds, there are lots of activities to enjoy as well. Many of these are designed to help out endangered species, inclusinh hedgehogs, for example. It's a compact litle book, comp;ete woth bookmark, ideal for nocturnal travels - with an adult, of coirse!

Deep in the Ocean by Lucie Brunelliere

The depths of the ocean are full of beauty - perhaps far more than we appreciate. But now we can really share that in this large-format board book, designed for hours of use. Join the scientific team on the submarine Oceanos to explore the ocean’s depths. When it gets caught in a violent storm, causing it to drift thousands of miles off-course, readers will travel the glittering surface of the sea to the darkness of the abyss. Six colours of ink (including neon pink and metallic silver) are used throughou to great effect, and a free downloadable soundtrack allows readers to feel even more fully immersed in this beautiful underwater world. Find it at


Usborne Nature Activity Book

Every puzzle in this colourful book is nature-themed. There are mazes, spot the difference, designing, Q & A, colouring in and lots more in this write-in activity book. There are many quizzes, and these encourage children to think about the questions, meaning they will remember the facts better. There are answers at the back for all the puzzles. But it's far more than just an activity book - every page is packed with information, so children will be learning about animals and plants, from bugs in the garden to turtles and dolphins in a coral reef. It's beautifully illustrated, with clear accurate pictures that go in to plenty of detail. For added information value, there are links to websites with video clips, fun facts and even more activities. This is a really well thought-out book with lots of variety and ways to encourage children to appreciate the natural world.

The Butterfly House by Katy Flint

This book immediately captured my attention with its beautifully intricate cover - I quickly knew this would be a book packed with astounding detail, and I wasn't disappointed. You are invited to step inside to discover over 100 species of beautiful butterflies. There is so much to see, from all around the world - spot the sleepy oranges mud-puddling, see shimmering metallic butterflies, watch the monarchs migrating, or the green swallowtail beating its shimmering wings. With information on many butterfly and moth families, divided by type or colour. Sadly, this book has neither contents page nor index which to my mind reduces its usefulness - but not its beauty. A stunning book, illustrated by Alice Pattullo.

How To Be a Butterfly by Laura Knowles

We can learn so much from the world of the butterfly, and this fascinating book will make us see these creatures from an entirely new perspective. As well as being beautiful to behold, butterflies provide an opportunity to introduce a variety of environmental topics, linking them together in a way that will be meaningful for children. Butterflies are key indicators of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems; they face threats of extinction due to climate change and habitat destruction. We all know how important these issues are for all of us. The remarkable illustrations by Catell Ronca are all labeled with the scientific names, and readers will discover fascinating details about their anatomy and life cycle (life cycles are always a significant topic in the curriculum). The text is simple and ideal for young children.

What on Earth? Birds by Mike Unwin

Birds are all around us and sadly, we often take them for granted. This book shows how essential they are to our planet and its survival, including through pollination, seed dispersal and the spreading of nutrients. The presentation really encourages children to get hands-on through experiments, investigations and practical tasks. There is an excellent index and glossary to aid learning. This is a very attractive book with clear crisp layout which is easy to follow. What on Earth is building up into an excellent series and the cross-disciplinary approach links well with the way learning is carried out in schools. Instead of seeing subjects as separate, children will see the links between science, culture, history, and arts and crafts. The presentation is engaging and encourages children to really investigate what lies within each picture.

Grotwig the Goblin by John Swannell

This is an unusual and extremely appealing book. Based in the beautiful countryside of the Lake District and Scotland, the stunning photos depict these regions and your task is to spot Grotwig the Goblin who is hiding in them. He's on every page but sometimes he is so small that you will need a magnifying glass... and luckily, the publishers have included one! Each page has an entertaining piece of text, written by Grotwig himself... and then the looking begins. It really does make you look closely at the photos - a great way to appreciate the beauties all around us. Quite different from anything else I have seen and a lovely and refreshing take on a popular style of book.

Go Wild at the Seaside: An Adventure Handbook by Goldie Hawk and Rachael Saunders

Once again, a super book from the wonderful collaboration between Nosy Crow and the National Trust. Perfect to slip into a pocket or backpack, this book includes everything children need from beginnin g to end of a seaside journey. They will find out what to pack, how to spot sea creatures and wildlife, how to catch a fish, what activities to enjoy and much, much more. There are sensible warnings too, so children can avoid dangers such as being stung by a jellyfish and getting caught in a rip current. There is all-important information about protecting the coastline, plus a useful chapter on what to do in a seaside emergency. It's amazing what has been packed into one book; it's a great way to buidl anticipation for a seaside holiday or day trip, to ensure children get the very best out of the experience.

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.

Beetles, Butterflies and other Minibeasts (National Trust Sticker Spotter Books)​ by Nikki Dyson

This is one in an excellent series of sticker books which provide plenty of factual information coupled with the always popular sticker book format. Children will study minibeasts at school and it's always a popular topic as these creatures are all around us; now children can learn much more about weird and wonderful minibeasts and their homes. Using the four pages of wildlife stickers, children will develop observational skills as they put the stickers in place on the colourful and informative pictures. The generous size of the book means there is lots to be seen in the pictures which give an excellent overview of habitats such as the home, the shed, the garden and much more. The checklist at the back is an excellent learning aid.

The Little Book of Trees by Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington

I suspect that there are many people, like me, who admire the beauty and majesty of trees but get stuck when it comes to identifying some of the less common varieties. So often, I have wondered about particular trees, and this book, which is a perfect pocket/backpack sixe, will answer those questions. 40 trees from around Europe are included, in alphabetical order. In addition, there are many other useful identification features, such as leaf gallery, bark gallery, cones and woodland plants. Each tree is identified by its common features, with a full page illustration, description, fact files and more, with plenty more illustrations too. The book has been really well thought out and is an excellent guide for the whole family.

The Big Book of Birds by Yuval Zommer

This is a stunning generously sized book which really captures the attention, as did its predecessors in the series. It's full of the answers to the sort of questions children ask - Why is a flamingo pink? Can a parrot talk? Is a bald eagle really bald? Identification is helped by introductory spreads on recognising bird’s eggs, the bird family tree, birds' beaks and feathers, and migration. This is followed by pages dedicated to specific varieties of birds from all around the world. Bird habitats are also explored and children are encouraged to protect birds and make their gardens bird friendly. This is a big, beautiful book to look at again and again. It's a beautiful book with exceptional detailed illustrations set against gorgeous and informative backgrounds.

What's Inside? by Miranda Smith and Kate McLelland

Children (and adults) will be mesmerised by the stunningly detailed pop-ups which are the key features of this book - they are superbly engineered by Neal Manning. Some wonderful habitats are explored, including the tunnels of a termite mound, the inside of a beaver lodge, a beehive on the roof of a skyscraper, and the world of an oak tree. Children will discover animal marvels from around the world through intricate pop-up scenes with flaps and tabs which reveal even more. This visual and creative approach really helps children to remember what they have seen and enjoyed.

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves​ by Britta Teckentrup

This peep-through picture book shows children a world beneath the waves that is teeming with life, from tiny graceful seahorses to darting tropical fish and from electric eels to humpback whales. From the cut-outs on the front cover and on through the book, children will be enticed to learn more as they discover a beautiful world. and a colourful array of sea creatures. Britta Teckentrup is an award-winning illustrator and you can see why in this beautiful book - her attention to detail and vivid use of colour makes for memorable illustrations that will help children appreciate the beauty of the undersea world.

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.

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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