Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott

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An absolute colossus of a book, Animalium screams ‘gift purchase’ and fittingly was published in time for Christmas. In fact that’s how it came through our front door – a hefty £20 present for a child, in a format that would make any bookseller weep (where to display/where to shelve?)

For all the hype, Animalium does not disappoint. In fact, it delights. Fights in our household over who was reading it first resulted in a compromise of reading aloud, and luckily it’s large enough that all three children could fit round the book. The aesthetic beauty of the book is apparent straight away – its huge smooth matt pages, with intricate and luxurious illustrations – some cut away skeletons, some full animal drawings.

The book invites the reader into the ‘museum’ that’s open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day – and the illustrations really do seem resplendent and yet muted – as if they are behind glass – and the accompanying text gives the impression of being the information board lying alongside.

The strength of the illustrations and the friendliness of the text make this a most warm and inviting museum. Jenny Broom’s tidbits of text provide copious detail in breathtaking conciseness. The information isn’t run of the mill either – but carefully picked out facts:

“[Crocodiles’] ears are so sensitive that they can hear calls from their unborn young still inside their eggs.”

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The layout guides you through the book in a sensible manner – if you can drag yourself away from the opening illustration of the Tree of Animal Life! It is aimed at 8+ yrs, although any child or adult would happily meander the pages of this fine museum.

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