The world and its wonders at your fingertips - book reviews

Summer may be over but the great outdoors still beckons so here are some wild and wonderful books that will inspire children to put away their hi-tech toys and enjoy a natural world of discovery, wildlife and adventure.

Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 5:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 5:17 pm
National Trust: 2019 Nature Month-By-Month: A Childrens Almanac by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz
National Trust: 2019 Nature Month-By-Month: A Childrens Almanac by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz

Age 7 plus:

National Trust: 2019 Nature Month-By-Month: A Children’s Almanac by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll see a lot more than a teddy bears’ picnic!

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Take an inspirational month-by-month journey through the seasons and the great outdoors with this bright and beautiful Nature Yearbook 2019 which has been specially created for children.

Inventive publisher Nosy Crow has been collaborating with the National Trust on some exciting and inventive books to inspire youngsters to enjoy the outdoors, and this cleverly designed almanac sees the partnership well and truly flourishing.

Lavishly illustrated throughout by Elly Jahnz and written by nature lover and wild swimmer Anna Wilson, this fantastic guide to the year includes nature spotter and animal behaviour guides, indoor and outdoor craft and activity ideas, seasonal recipes, religious festivals and some special days, including the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing in July.

Discover the best time in 2019 to spot meteors or go for a wild swim. Find out where hedgehogs go in winter, how to build a nest box, and when to look out for the arrival of migrating swans. Enjoy some hands-on learning, like making your own bird food, discover the fun of outdoor games, or simply dip into the pages and read fascinating facts about wildlife.

Curious nature explorers can use notes and diary sections to personalise the book with their own observations and memories.

Complete with ribbon marker and a reference calendar, this is a delightful gift for adventurers and an entertaining and busy yearbook that will encourage young readers to connect with nature and revel in the wonderful world around them.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Hello World: Animals Written by Nicola Edwards and illustrated by L’Atelier Cartographik

Let your little ones turn into inter-continental explorers as they lift the flaps and discover for themselves some of the world’s most amazing creatures.

There are animals, birds and insects of every size and colour in the pages of charming and chunky, big and bold board book from ever-inventive publishers 360 Degrees.

A non-fiction imprint of the Little Tiger Group, 360 Degrees offers a stimulating and creative approach to presenting facts and Hello World: Animals, an amazing atlas of wildlife, sends youngsters on an accessible and unique fact-finding mission to every continent on the planet to discover some truly incredible creatures.

Featuring more than 180 animals from a variety of habitats, and enticing flaps to lift on every spread, this stunning book offers a close-up look at many wonders of the natural world.

Meet the Amazon Rainforest’s bird-eating tarantulas and pink river dolphins and the exotic inhabitants of the magical African island of Madagascar, or be swept away to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and marvel at the fantastic fish and coral under the sea.

Carefully crafted and highly illustrated throughout, each spread of this dazzling book focuses on a different continent and the wonderful animals that each one offers. Information is provided in bite-size facts, making them easy to read and absorb.

Animal magic and a world of discovery…

(360 Degrees, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Absolutely Everything! A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention by Christopher Lloyd

They say that reality is stranger than fiction and this brilliant, fact-packed book is just bulging with coruscating curiosities!

Author Christopher Lloyd takes us on a fantastical journey through absolutely everything (well, almost!) in this fully illustrated and bang up-to-date history of the world. And what he proves undoubtedly is that the real world is far more amazing than anything you can make up.

This wonderfully entertaining and informative skip through world history comes from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines. And for every question the book answers, it sparks another one, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.

The author’s aim was to make the story of world history as fun and accessible as possible for both children and adults. Lloyd has always been interested in finding ways to connect knowledge, believing that taking a step back to look at the big picture can be even more valuable than zooming in to look at the details.

Using engaging design, Andy Forshaw’s colourful illustrations, hundreds of photographs and a mini timeline in each chapter highlighting key moments, Absolutely Everything is a 340-page treasure trove of learning.

The chapters include dinosaurs, the beginning of civilisation, the rise or fall of empires, the emergence of invention and powerful ideas, the struggles of medieval Europe, science revolutions and world wars.

How was our universe made from a tiny speck of energy? Where did the first trees, plants, animals and humans come from? What happened to the dinosaurs? What was so miserable about medieval times? How were railroads and electricity invented? What are the perils of global warming?

Discover everything from the creation of planet Earth and the rise of animals, to globalisation, wars and climate change as Lloyd brings us some of the most remarkable true stories of our time.

One world… and one perfect gift book!

(What on Earth Publishing, hardback, £16.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Moon by Hannah Pang and Thomas Hegbrook

‘The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars,’ wrote Arthur C. Clarke, English author and co-writer of the screenplay for the landmark 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

For centuries, humans have gazed up at the Moon in awe and wonder, and it has long provided a source of inspiration to artists, astronomers, poets, mathematicians and dreamers.

But how much do we really know about our closest cosmological neighbour, and why does it continue to fascinate us and send us on soaring flights of fancy… even in the knowing and technologically sophisticated 21st century?

Through a moon-load of words and fabulous pictures, author Hannah Pang and illustrator Thomas Hegbrook explore the history of man’s eternally fixated and fascinating relationship with the Moon… the science, the myths, the facts and the fiction, and how it affects our everyday lives and the world around us.

Full of rich factual detail and colourful, atmospheric illustrations, which bring all the compelling cosmological information to glorious life, this beautifully designed and captivating book has been published to coincide with next year’s 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.

From the legends that have grown out of the Moon’s eclipse and the mythical Man in the Moon, to the belief that the Moon can make us crazy and David Bowie’s song about Major Tom’s space mission, this is an exciting and compelling guide guaranteed to leave readers well and truly moonstruck!

(360 Degrees, hardback, £16.99)

Age 8 plus:

Planetarium by Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell

Welcome to the Planetarium… home to an incredible collection of astronomical wonders from icy moons to swirling galaxies!

Published in association with the Science Museum, Planetarium is the exciting new addition to the Welcome To The Museum series from the Big Picture Press which offers tours in museums that are always open.

This fantastic exploration of the universe in all its glory is the follow-on to the hugely successful Historium, a collection of objects from ancient civilisations, Animalium, a detailed exploration of more than 160 animal specimens, Botanicum, a super-sized book of stunning botanical delights, and the dangerously entertaining Dinosaurium.

The Welcome To The Museum series enable readers to wander the galleries from the comfort of home and discover a collection of curated exhibits on every page, all accompanied by informative text.

Each book is also packed with the finely detailed and incredibly coloured artwork of Chris Wormell, a self-taught artist who uses a digital adaptation of the engraving process to create his stunning images.

In this eye-catching new tour, which comes in the form of a large, high-quality book packed with amazing pictures and fascinating facts, we learn about all aspects of space, from the Sun and our Solar System to the lives of stars, the Milky Way and the universe beyond.

The informative text is written by Professor of Astrophysics, Raman Prinja, who takes us over the horizon of our blue-green planet and into a space world that has fascinated humans since the dawn of time.

So step inside the pages of this spellbinding book and discover everything you ever wanted to know about space, planets and all things galactic.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £20)

Age 7 plus:

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by Ben Hoare

What is your favourite animal?

Chances are that the creatures you love most will be in the pages of this stunning book which brings us not just amazing pictures, but lots of enchanting stories, myths and facts.

Prepare to discover more than 100 animals, both big and small, in this engrossing children’s encyclopaedia which showcases incredible animal pictures and extraordinary illustrations with a delightful, informative twist.

Written by wildlife journalist Ben Hoare, and illustrated by Daniel Long, Angela Rizza and Daniela Terrazzini, this beautiful modern bestiary takes children on an exciting, illustrated journey through the animal kingdom, and provides lots of fun animal facts.

The anthology includes firm favourites like dolphins, tigers and butterflies as well as more unusual creatures like the walrus, lemur and the quokka, known as ‘the world’s happiest animal,’ which lives on an island called Rottnest just offshore from the Australian city of Perth.

Each type of animal is shown through fantastic photography and gorgeous illustrations, and youngsters will love poring over the richly detailed and highly colourful close-up images.

From tigers and chameleons to wolves and owls, there’s an animal for everyone in this compendium which lets children find the animals that interest them most and then uncover new favourites along the way.

Did you know that hump-back whales blow bubble rings or that ring-tailed lemurs have stink fights? From information on how the slow-motion sloth lives and how the plodding pangolin protects itself from predators to which animal the Ancient Egyptians thought rolled the Sun across the sky, children can learn all sorts of fun animal facts from the storybook descriptions.

With an easy-to-read text and large images, shining gold foiling and gilded edges, this book is beautiful both inside and out, and will be a lasting treasure for readers young and old.

(DK Children, hardback, £20)

Age 7 plus:

Survival by Louise McNaught

As habitat loss now poses the greatest threat to our precious wildlife, discover the inspirational stories of 20 threatened species facing a fight for survival.

Statistics show our planet is losing species between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, and it is caused almost entirely by human activity.

Published in association with Tusk, a British charity set up in 1990 to help to protect African wildlife including African elephants, black rhino and the mountain gorilla, this beautifully illustrated book puts the world’s extinction crisis and conservation issues into sharp focus and inspires all of us to join the conservation movement.

From the rainforest and the savannah to the depths of the ocean, artist Louise McNaught’s compelling animal portraits bring to life 20 stunning but endangered creatures, including secretary birds which fly across Africa south of the Sahara Desert, and the giant panda which now only survives in a handful of remote mountain areas in China.

McNaught’s vivid and energetic illustrations feature animals set on bright neon hues of green, yellow, pink, red and blue in an almost street-art style, giving them an elevated status whilst also suggesting the delicate relationship between nature and humans.

Through words and intensely powerful pictures, Survival explores the dangers these amazing creatures face in their fight for survival, the action being taken to protect them, and their vital importance to life on Earth.

In his foreword to this inspirational book, Charlie Mayhew, chief executive of Tusk, warns: ‘We all have a fantastic opportunity to do more for wildlife right now. We must not leave it too late: extinction is forever.’

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Speed of Starlight: How Physics, Light and Sound Work by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadía

If you thought physics was boring, you certainly won’t after a lightning (and enlightening!) tour through the universe with exciting science writer Colin Stuart.

Designed to present physics in a totally new ‘light,’ The Speed of Starlight contains nearly 80 pages of scintillating science as we explore the topics of physics, light and sound alongside incredible artwork from Spanish surrealist artist Ximo Abadía.

Presenting the information under four groupings – physics, sound, light and colour, and space – Stuart and Abadía combine impressive design with exhilaratingly presented content in a giant-sized book that will captivate and inspire youngsters.

Learn the basics of Newton’s Laws of Motion, the facts about seismic shakes, discover how the sound barrier is broken, how we are able to see the world around us because of light reflection, and cringe at the scary, stretchy condition called ‘spaghettification’ which could happen to you if you stepped into a black hole.

This is science (yes, even quantum physics!) made fun, accessible, inspirational and visually exciting… well, who would have thought it!

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Once Upon a Raindrop: The Story of Water by James Carter and Nomoco

Feel the rhythm of the rain in this glorious poetic celebration of water and its life-giving role in our world.

James Carter, an award-winning poet and educational writer, immerses children into the dripping, dropping, gushing story of H2O from the theory that it could have started as a block of ice in space to clouds, rain, giant oceans, rivers and lakes.

Engaging and yet fact-filled verse flows over the pages and across Japanese artist Nomoco’s striking and dynamic watercolour illustrations to bring us the story of water in all its stunning beauty and practicality.

Discover the origins of water, how our water cycle works and its crucial importance to the survival of our planet as you journey across skies, lands and seas on a wave of illuminating words and pictures.

As well as supporting the school curriculum subject of water, Carter’s unique story showcases poetry at its best... playful, rhythmic, entertaining and informative.

And as a final flourish, enjoy five fascinating facts about water, including the stunning 326 million trillion gallons of it in the world (most of it in the sea!).

Visually exciting and full of beauty and cadence, Once Upon a Raindrop is fun to read aloud at home and ideal as a learning tool in schools.

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 3 plus:

Peek and Seek by Charlotte Milner

It’s never too early to enjoy the fun of fact finding and DK’s wonderful peek and seek animal adventure lets children make their own discoveries.

With 28 objects to count and find in each charmingly illustrated animal scene, this sturdy hide and seek board book, with an eye-catching cut-out cover and exciting flaps to lift, is packed with puzzles and interactive activities, and ideal for your little ones.

Peek under the giant flaps to reveal the flock of birds in the sky, meet an army of ants as they creep and crawl in the undergrowth and marvel at a shimmering school of sardines, complete with flashes of shiny foil, as they swim through the colourful coral reef. And then use your powers of observation to find all sorts of objects hidden in the animal crowd.

There are fabulous facts and things to learn along the way, such as how monkeys keep each other clean, and enjoy learning animal collective nouns. Did you know that a group of monkeys is called a troop and a group of rabbits is a colony?

Peek and Seek’s combination of gentle learning with fun activities enables little ones to develop their hand-eye co-ordination, counting and observational skills whilst still having fun and remaining engaged.

From squirrels and snakes to otters and eels, this beautiful book offers the youngest readers a wildlife adventure they can enjoy, share and return to time and time again.

(DK Children, board book, £9.99)