The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer

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The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very colourful and trivia-filled primer into mammal biology that will look great on the school shelf.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 64 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780500651063

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One of the many issues people have with the TV nature programme, such as Planet Earth II, is the obvious one of all the blood and guts it features – yes, in amongst all the cutesy, comical animal life are creatures eating other creatures (normally the cutesy, comical ones, what's worse). You'll be pleased to know, however, that this book is very light on death and destruction. Yes, here are lions sharing some chunks of meat (while the females that caught and killed it sit and wait their turn), here are salmon seemingly willingly flying towards brown bears, and here is a red fox stashing a dead mouse while in a time of plenty, but there is so little to make this even a PG book – it will be perfect for the home shelf or that in a primary school.

Well, I say perfect… The teacher might not rely on these pages for a coherent bit of essay work, but apart from that I have to admire the script here for the wonderful trivia it contains – and I know I was a great trivia fan as a youngster. Wolves can rely on seventeen facial expressions. Beavers have see-through eyelids for when they're underwater. A sloth gives off no smell – how great and pithy is that?

Yes, this book offers little in the way of a uniform, encyclopaedic look at all the various beasts that make up its contents. Instead, with the use of whatever's superlative or relevant to each species, we get a different look at just how different all these mammals are. It's the quick look here that won't overwhelm the browser with data, but will transport her or him all around the world, and with the use of special spreads at the end, into city life, into the past, and into the footsteps of a tracker hunting paw prints.

The book is the typical large format hardback, and is very well presented. Each creature type gets a double page spread, and the artwork crams the detail on in a very nice fashion. It's inherently cartoonish, with little in the way of honest perspective, and odd facial expressions (and not just for the wolves), but I think in my limited knowledge it's quite scientific enough. I've seen several of these non-fiction books for the under-tens that are driven by their artist, and too often I've found the look of the piece at odds with the accuracy of the script. Here it isn't the case. You get several looks at each critter, and half a dozen factoids peppered across each spread. I'd have changed those – either drop the headline, or decide whether they're where the interesting detail is or not – but I'd alter very little about a book like this. It'll get the young biologist used to indexes, binturongs – and a host of other beasts, the variety of which don't fit into the cutesy category, but will survive to new generations, as will scientific curiosity, with this volume's help.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

When the audience for this have stepped up an age bracket, the likes of Knowledge Encyclopedia: Animal! by DK will be waiting for them. And their younger siblings will relish the artist's award-winning picture book, One Hundred Sausages.

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Buy The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer at


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