To get us in the mood for Christmas, we asked ecological consultant and Mammal Society council member, Merryl Gelling and her two children, nicknamed Seahorse (aged 2) and Turtle (aged 6), to review some of the latest children’s nature-themed story books. We’ll be posting the results of their reading sessions below.
Thank you very much to all featured authors and publishers for taking part and donating the books.
The Lost Spells, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris: Hamish Hamilton RRP £14.99
This beautiful pocket-sized book encompasses a sumptuous collection of wonderful, evocative rhythmic incantations, with stunning, almost ethereal artwork. It cries out to be read aloud making it ideal to read with my older daughter. She was enchanted with the artwork, picking out species that she recognised for me to read the words – the spells are uplifting and joyful, with artwork for each that flows over several pages, and I was soon dismissed so she could delve further on her own. While some of the language was beyond her, the illustrations kept her captivated. A delightful book to curl up with, to incite discussion and to lose yourself in the natural world, to introduce species and spark memories.
Gaspard Best in Show, Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew: Graffeg RRP £12.99
The words every parent wants to hear after giving their child a new book is “Can we get the other one of these? It’s great – I loved it!”. As soon as this book arrived, Turtle curled up on the sofa and devoured it, with this being her initial response. We then sat down together find out exactly what it is that was so compelling… The detailed descriptions of what Gaspard’s friends look like and are wearing are beautifully echoed in the illustrations, with characters that have real depth to them, and a storyline that rollicks along and had both my children laughing out loud. This is a gorgeous book, perfectly pitched for children who are becoming more confident readers to tackle alone as the pictures reinforce the storyline so well, but also engaging to read by adults to younger children.
The fox footprints on the inside covers gave us the opportunity to discuss fox anatomy and how they differ from dog prints, and further information on the Year of the Fox and other activities elevates this book to more than just a story. A really lovely Christmas present for any child.
Mouse and Mole: A Fresh Start, Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew: Graffeg RRP £12.99
This compendium of three stories in one volume feature friends Mouse and Mole as they simply go about their everyday lives; being together, making decisions, and exploring the world. The narrative flows beautifully and is perfectly illustrated with detailed and bright pictures on each page which kept my two fully engaged, insisting that we read all three tales in succession. The characters, both in appearance and description, have more than a whiff of animal classics such as Wind in the Willows about them, resulting in a warm feeling of familiarity and comfort, but exploring more modern themes making them perfectly suited to the next generation of readers.
A lovely book for independent reading, or, as we read it, with the three of us curled up under a blanket together – followed by ‘animated discussions’ as to who got to take it to bed to read again!
The Shrew with the Flu, Will Hamilton-Davies & Jennifer Davison: Silverwood Books RRP £9.99
On first opening this book with Turtle and Seahorse we were expecting a nice little rhyming tale. What I wasn’t anticipating was a story that could truly capture the nature of shrews with a tale that has real depth, highlighting their physical attributes (poor vision, and a great sense of smell – normally). This book also subtly introduces the concepts of caring and nurturing to a young audience as the Shrew soon realises the error of his ways, that he must think about the world with care, and that small deeds really can make all the difference, giving a truly timely moral to the story that everyone should embrace. Beautifully illustrated, this story not only engaged the girls but also had Turtle thinking more deeply about the story – while Seahorse was simply happy naming all the insects!