It’s rare to come across a child who isn’t fascinated by animals. Some fear them, some adore them, but all seem keen to learn more about them. My husband and I often debate the merits of letting our young kids watch nature documentaries: he thinks the food chain is a vital life lesson, whereas I think watching a lion rip the head off a gazelle is inappropriate bedtime viewing. Nonetheless, I understand his point that to explore the animal kingdom is to take a walk through the sheer wonder of life on our planet – and the more exotically weird and wonderful the animal, the better! And so to this book, Marc Martin’s The Curious Explorer’s Illustrated Guide to Exotic Animals, A to Z, an educational visual feast providing many opportunities to examine the natural world.
The cover design offers a nod to the sets of illustrated encyclopaedias I used to have as a kid. The sort many people had as kids, I guess, before Google became our go-to information source. This old fashioned cover – glossy on its hard back – celebrates scientific classification and recording of the animal world, giving just a hint of the magnificent illustrations yet to come.
Open the book and we begin our travels with a world map to point out each creature’s place of origin. P is for Panda. Can you find a panda on the map? It lives in China – but that’s an easy one. What about an ibex? Or a narwhal? Or a quetzal? Each letter of the alphabet comes with a chance to admire an explosion of colour and design, identify the animal (or bird, or fish) and have a crack at pronouncing its scientific name. Once you’ve reached the zebra, you’re rewarded with a page of additional facts about habitats and curiosities.
Part picture book, part field guide, this title could be fun for a wide range of ages – from bubs ready to look at shapes and colours, through to preschoolers working on their letters and sounds. Even early readers keen for a bit of Zoology 101 will find the Illustrated Guide entertaining. In fact, those three stages pretty much match up with the ages of my own children and they all absolutely loved this book!
The Curious Explorer’s Illustrated Guide to Exotic Animals, A to Z by Marc Martin will be released on 27th February 2013 and is published by Penguin. I thank them kindly for my copy.