ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES
by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins, illustrated by Lucy Letherland – Wide Eyed from Quarto Knows (Allen & Unwin), 2016
ages 2 to grownup / coffee table, nonfiction, s.t.e.m.
When Max was younger he struggled to read while absolutely loving all things animal and nature.
His standard birthday/Christmas present request was animal documentaries on DVD. (Actually the only thing that has changed is that he can read easily now!) When he spotted Atlas of Animal Adventures he settled in for a long read—I'm pretty sure his younger self would have loved it just as much.
This atlas includes maps of course, but they’re beautifully hand drawn and sparsely populated, which contributes to a big picture view of the world.
A smattering of animals from each continent is spotlighted and each animal is then given a double page spread, with plenty of room for enticing pictures and scattered facts about its unique survival mechanisms and behaviours. It’s a great combination of macro and micro looks at the animal world.
The power pack in this book:
The selection of information about each animal is just right — it's a perfect combination of the quirky facts that so appeal to all ages and background information that gives a solid foundation.
It's great for growing attention-span—coming back to the same type of reading day after day helps to develop skills important for academic reading. There are 31 featured animals, so the book can be read over a few nights—perhaps one continent at a time, or even one animal at a time.
The pictures give a sense of the importance of individual animals as well as species as a whole; they're truly wonderful and I really, really love them. The personality in the faces of the animals and joy in the lives they live is quite mesmerising and they're not overly anthropomorphised.
It's likely to capture the attention of young readers and lead them to further research (perhaps the scorpion on the Africa page). The maps of the continents include more animals than found in the individual pages—as well as being lovely to look at and interesting, this means that there's still more to learn.
It’s full of interesting facts but doesn’t feel weighty—there's the fun of the pictures coupled with the space around each fact so it's very accessible reading.
It’s formatted in traditional non-fiction style with a contents page and an index—becoming familiar with that format helps as children move into formal research.
The Can You Find page at the end is great for interacting with the book.
A small reading hint:
For younger children it can be fun to have the child point to one of the animals on a page and then read the fact closest to that particular animal. For older children it can still be helpful to point to the text of each fact so that they can follow as you move around the page.
Reading nonfiction is wonderful because it’s judgement free—it’s simply a matter of sinking deep into the magnificent world we live in and allowing ourselves to be fascinated and educated. Atlas of Animal Adventures is great for quick-snatch as well as longer reading sessions. And both reader and listener will likely learn something new. It’s a book that guarantees many happy hours of discovery.