Tag Archive for Butterfield Moira

Books of Wonder: Information and Knowledge

When I was growing up there was a television series called The Wonder Years, and very often I hear adults talking about a child’s sense of wonder at the world around them. I don’t know who first attributed the wonder quality to childhood, but if a child is less jaded, more open to being amazed or dazzled by the world than adults, then they’ll be even more entranced with this selection of books than I am.

atlas of adventures wonders of the worldatlas of adventures wonders
Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World, illustrated by Lucy Letherland, written by Ben Handicott

I first came across Lucy Letherland’s Atlas of Adventures in a school hall in 2014, reviewed it as one of my first books of the week, and since then my blog, and Letherland’s series has gone from strength to strength. The Wonders of the World title, however, is truly awesome, or should I say wonderful. Veering off the path of the traditional wonders of the world, Ben Handicott has picked his own; choosing 30 destinations from as far apart as Death Valley to The Forbidden City.

Introducing his wonders, Ben makes the point of explaining that wonder can be found in the simplicity of a flower blooming in your backyard as much as in the intricacies of the Sagrada Familia, but explains that some wonders are worth travelling for.

Letherland’s full page illustrations of each wonder, drawn from different and intriguing perspectives, and following on from maps of each geographical area, are truly magnificent; each populated with a raft of tourists, indigenous peoples and animals in an imaginative out-of-this-world harmony. And Handicott’s text not only introduces the site with a couple of paragraphs and snapshot information, but illuminates single sentence facts around the illustrations. His annotations on the illustration of Neuschwanstein Castle, thought to be an inspiration for Walt Disney’s fairy tale castle, highlight the modern fixtures and fittings within.

This is a bold book, in the choice of wonders and also in the guilty irreverence of some of the illustrations, (Merlin at Stonehenge, for example), but all provoke fascination in the reader. Maps fix the natural and man-made wonders firmly in their geographical position. Watch for the tourists posing at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the bears in Yosemite. I found a marathon runner on the Great Wall of China. Can you? Find your wonder here.

welcome to our world
Welcome to Our World: A Celebration of Children Everywhere by Moira Butterfield and Harriet Lynas
With illustrations and theme reminiscent of Disneyworld’s It’s a Small World ride, this is a colourful look at childhood around the world, highlighting differences but above all sending the message of what humans have in common. The first page highlights flags, then the author looks at various ways of saying hello in different languages (with a phonetic spelling for pronunciation), as well as showcasing types of names, foods, homes, pets, and transport in different countries. For any child wanting to see how others live, this is a great introduction. There are quirks, as well as that which is familiar and relevant to children, such as school uniform, musical instruments etc. The quirks include cures for hiccups, phrases, manners and playground games. With their saucer faces and big black button eyes, the illustrations are doll-like and immensely colourful, reminding me of the collection of native dress dolls that I had as a child. Appealing and eclectic, this is a great fact-finder for the very young – kids will enjoy the celebration cakes from around the world. There’s a list of countries featured at the end of the book, and great production values throughout. Age 4+. Welcome to your world here.

one day so many ways
One Day So Many Ways by Laura Hall, illustrated by Loris Lora

Not so dissimilar is this large-size illustrated guide to 40 children from around the world, also looking at a 24 hour period, in which it compares lifestyles and habits, including houses, meals, transport to school, playtime and so on. The illustrations of the children here are slightly less doll-like, but also stylised to look similar despite their differences – almond eyes, simple bodies – they reminded me of Topsy and Tim in that last-century-retro-way. Features that differentiate from the book above include a spread called Quiet Time, which features prayer, reading time and meditation amongst other pursuits, and asks the reader to contemplate their own life features. Weekend jobs, family time, helping out and reading are also explored, as well as the more mundane foods, bedtime, friends and homework. The Highlights page showcases the highlights of some of the children’s days, and it’s clear that weather can play a large part in how children live their lives. There’s a list of countries at the back with flags and facts, and this will be a good addition in showing children the different cultures and ways of life around the world, despite the inherent similarities of childhood. You can buy it here.

wonders of the world
Wonders of the World by Isabel Otter and Margaux Carpentier
Where best to find wonder than in the traditionally designated ‘seven wonders of the world’? This book is much smaller and squarer than Lucy Letherland’s Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World and is aimed at younger children, highlighting the Ancient Wonders and Modern Wonders, exploring all 14 in a colourful lift-the-flap informative book. Each wonder receives a full page, with introductory text, and some supplementary information in small paragraphs, such as exploring that the Colossus of Rhodes was the inspiration behind the modern Statue of Liberty.

An interactive wheel displays the plants of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as well as the features of the Lantern Room on the Lighthouse of Alexandria. This is a colourful dip into the beautiful buildings that defined their eras, and the colour palate matches well with the romance behind each – pink and patterned egg blue for the Taj Mahal, deep orange and yellow for the Great Pyramid of Giza. This cardboard novelty book has a page at the end detailing some natural wonders too. Age 7+. Find a wonder here.

treasure hunt house
Treasure Hunt House by Kate Davies and Becca Stadtlander
Not all wonders are to be found in distant places and time. This book is both a game, in that it’s a literal treasure hunt – readers must lift the flaps to solve the clues – but also a treasure trove in that it gives fascinating facts about the wonders to be found in a domestic realm. Two children go to visit their Great Aunt Martha in her house – this is not an ordinary house though, containing a music room, conservatory, library and hall of inventions. More like a stately home, although many of the items are to be found in every domestic environment, and the book gives the history behind the telephone, fridge, toilet and bath as well as stepping into the more eclectic, such as exploring a Chinese lacquered mirror, platform shoes, Renoir painting and more.

This is exploration and history and activity all in one book. The illustrations themselves are like a treasure hunt – detailed, fascinating and rather intricate – they immerse the reader in the book. The readership is hard to define here – it’s probably something that could span a host of ages – the clues are very easy to solve, but the text in some places feels older. Age 7+. Find your treasure here.

The Curiositree: Human World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Human History by Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley
A second in this series – the first Curiositree explored the natural world – now we are into human history. Divided into sections – with three colour-matching ribbons to bookmark a reader’s place – each spread is labelled as a ‘chart’. This is down to the fact that the book is remarkably visual. There is a glut of information on each topic, and although the typeface is minuscule, each ‘chart’ is different from the one before and includes many illustrations, infographics and diagrams to showcase the topic.

The three colours of the ribbons, like the colour-coding inside, represent the three strands of discovery in the book: human history, art and culture, science, trade and technology. I expected more page cross-referencing across the topics, but was nicely surprised by the depth of knowledge on individual items, such as the history of metal usage, breakthrough thinking ie in maths, and the over-riding themes of the history of farming and music.
curiositree writing
It’s difficult to showcase thousands of years of human development in a 112 page book for children and the authors do an admirable job. Of course there’s much missing, and I had rather hoped for a little more information on religion and philosophical thought before launching into Stonehenge, ancient temples and tombs, but on the whole this is a great resource, and I suppose why it is a compendium rather than an encyclopedia.

Towards the end there is information on printing and world exploration – because the book travels up to the early 1600s only. Although this is clearly aimed at much older children, in that it introduces complex themes, has a complicated layout (for dipping and researching), and articulates in a non-patronising but technically more sophisticated manner, younger readers will enjoy the detailed and colourful illustrations throughout. Aimed at 8+ years and older. Stimulate your curiosity here.

transport and travelfoods of the world
Transport and Travel Mini Hardback by Sandra Lawrence, illustrated by Jem Maybank and Foods of the World: Mini Hardback by Libby Walden and Jocelyn Kao.
For those who prefer their factual information to be more bitesize and topic-based, these two excellent little companions will be useful for curious children wondering about the world, and useful as classroom resources. Rather than holding an encyclopaedic knowledge of the topic, these dip in with illustrations dominating each page, and a couple of sentences at the top to give background.

The transport book divides nicely into wheels, rail, air and water and picks out where transport has become rather famous – the San Francisco tram, the Shinkansen railway network in Japan. There’s also a nice mix of history – the Viking longboats, and future – the jet pack. Foods of the World is even more random in its choice of information. There are customs and traditions, celebratory food and a strange section called ‘playing with food’, with quirky facts such as competitive eating, food fights and the accidental creation of bubble gum. More fun than fodder for thought, this is a good title to have in the KS1 classroom. Age 5+ years. You can buy them here and here.

All Things Bright and Beautiful: National Non-Fiction November

National Non-Fiction November (a month dedicated to the sometime neglected category of children’s information books) is not only in November because of the alliteration – November is also the peak period for buying children’s non-fiction in the scramble for Christmas gift options. I have a huge pile of amazing non-fiction books on the floor at home – they are too huge to fit on the shelf, and this way they can dazzle me daily as I trip over them on the way to the computer. For dazzle they do. Children’s non-fiction grows brighter and more beautiful every year.

Today, the highlights of new animal and nature non-fiction.

DK Explanatorium of Nature

Watching Blue Planet II on Sunday night was magical. As Sir David Attenborough explains, cameras now have the ability to show us things that weren’t possible even a decade ago, and the daring and bravery and patience of the cameramen is quite striking. DK capitalise on this power of photography in their stunning non-fiction for children.

With jaw-dropping photography to inspire, simple facts laid out, and a comprehensive layout, this is quite an encyclopaedia, that also lives up to its name, for it certainly does explain things. Each spread is entitled ‘How something works’, starting with Life, and it doesn’t just state the facts, but it actually explains them. In ‘How Life works’, the authors explain the seven characteristics that all forms of life share, as well as describing how humans have divided living things into seven major groups called kingdoms, and exploring the essential element of water. It’s comprehensive, but told well and simply, and illustrated to perfection – the main image here is a close up photo of a squash bug and its babies on a leaf.

Every page in this large book is dominated by a bright, annotated or captioned image, usually photographic, so the eye is constantly drawn and interested, and there are smaller diagrams and illustrations to explain in more detail. For example, the spread entitled ‘How Starfish work’ has a large photograph taken from underneath, but also an illustration to show how seawater tubes run through their bodies, seeing as starfish don’t have a heart or blood vessels. It also explores the internal skeleton, tube feet, how they eat, how they regrow limbs, and the use of its star-shaped body.

There are numerous questions answered in this huge compendium, including bioluminescence, how insects see, how a crocodile can breathe underwater while still holding prey in its mouth, why birds fly in a V formation, and many more.

Ten chapters include the basics of life, microorganisms, plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and habitats. A fantastic visual feast. You can buy it here.

Urban Jungle by Vicky Woodgate
As an urban adult with urban children, this was a delightful find. We live in the heart of London, where our access to nature comes from crossing a footpath through two fields to get to school, and gazing out at our small patch of London green, marvelling, this time of year, at the red beauty of the acer gracing the middle of the lawn. But even within these small landscapes, there is huge scope for nature, and this wonderful book opened our eyes to the multitude of species that inhabit our urban spaces.

The book is a sumptuous collection of colourful city maps, highlighted with illustrations of the different abundant species that make their habitats in the city. Of course there are foxes and pigeons in London, but Vicky Woodgate focuses not only on the seen, but also on the unseen.

In New York for example, terrapins turn up at JFK airport in June to lay their eggs in the sandy turf near the airport. In Hong Kong, the masked palm civet eats fruit in the lush trees of the city’s parks.

Woodgate also highlights the danger humans pose to these urban dwellers. Pollution in Thane Creek in Mumbai has led to the disappearance of about 50 marine species, and in Sydney, the destruction of their habitat means that the common brushtail possum have now adapted to urban living and find roofs in which to nest.

Each animal illustration is labelled, and there are many small snippet paragraphs of information to absorb. On each double spread, a small map indicates where the city lies within its country, and there are large opening continent spreads that give an atlas view as to where the cities are in the world. In each city, green spaces, airports, zoos and animal sightings are given in a key.

Of particular interest are the ‘boxed off’ animal stories, supplementing the main information. These may be about migration, or natural disasters, or a particular animal that has a story in that city.

The idea is to inspire sightings and nature watching even in the most over-populated places on Earth. With a comprehensive index, and a huge number of experts who helped with the book listed at the back, this is a phenomenal piece of new non-fiction. You can buy it here.

How Animals Build by Moira Butterfield and Tim Hutchinson

Lonely Planet approach animals slightly differently in their new title about animal homes. Told with facts, but in a colloquial, jokey manner, the book roams across the planet looking at animals that build their homes with clever strategies. From coral reefs, to termite mounds, hives to webs, the placement of each animal is fairly random, and there is no index.

Instead, the book is incredible fun. Fully illustrated in colour, each page contains either small flaps to see inside an animal’s home, or a full page opener that shows what’s going on behind the scene. The first spread, for example, shows an illustration of a European oak tree. The flap reveals all that’s going on inside the one tree, from woodpeckers’ holes to a wasp nest, to a burrowing wood mouse at the bottom. The title of the page ‘Apartment Block with Branches’ gives a clue to the tone of the book.

There are a lovely couple of spreads about underwater living, brightly coloured, with an illustrated diver too, and lots of information including the meaning of sand circles on the sea bed, hiding places for octopuses, and a fact trail about how reefs are constructed.

Further on, the beaver is awarded the prize for best animal building for his dam and lodge, and there’s even a section on animals who make their homes in human habitats.

This is a lovely introduction to studying nature in a specific way, and would serve the purpose beautifully for a school project. Colourful, interesting and just light enough on information to inform its young audience without overwhelming. You can buy it here.