We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden

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We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: This covers only one side of animal life, but does it so well and pleasantly that it's worth making a long journey for.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 64 Date: September 2017
Publisher: words & pictures
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781910277331

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The lead singer of Foreigner said I've travelled so far to change this lonely life. Well, he's gone nowhere in comparison to many of these creatures, who probably wouldn't call their life lonely, either. Masses of animals gather, herd, school, and fly in unison, and all make their migration to change their lives. Some hide from the danger of winter storms, many seek the food they need before hibernation or their first meals after breeding, some just trot up a volcano to lay eggs in the one place they know will keep them warm. It might seem to be an unusual approach – having a sparsely-texted book solely about one aspect of animal nature, but on this evidence it's an approach that certainly works.

Each critter gets a double-page spread to itself, showing the animal in all its glory in a suitable environment. What is soon evident is that by concentrating on superlative migrations, this volume has managed to shed the 'only the cuddly ones' approach to nature documentaries and books elsewhere. We get swimmers first, from seals to eels and everyone in between, before flown migrations, whether done by bats, cranes or locusts, then come down to earth with the elephants and suchlike – although, again, animals that you might not expect to find in a book for the young such as this are here.

I really liked the illustrative craft on offer here – our artist offers an unshowy palette, but a way of getting both character and accuracy in his portraits I wish other people would take heed of, and for all the similarity of the journeys all the spreads have a great variety. This is top-notch stuff. The writing is fine, as it stands. Each animal narrates to us in first-person plural, and often adds a touch of poetry about themselves – We are the fruit bats. We are the night-time flappers, the sweet-treat snackers! Arctic terns are daylight dancers – only the polar bears, it seems, avoid such pleasure with words. In under a hundred words they each tell us where and why they're travelling, whether it's from a specific region of the world to another, or just up a hill and back.

What I wasn't so keen on was the changes in font size, and the design that seemed to be putting oomph into the writing where none was needed. You don't need stress on certain things here, as even if this is for a young audience it's a non-fiction book, and not something you'd read out to the emerging reader. Beyond that, it is actually probably best suited to the school library rather than the home one – the gazetteer at the back with all the specific data for each journey is for the older pupil with homework to research. But wherever this book ends up it will be appreciated. It's a calmly mannered study of some remarkable animal feats, and its approach of measured artfulness has made for a most distinctive volume.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Amazing Animal Journeys by Chris Packham and Jason Cockroft does something pretty similar, but without the poetic narration and with added maps.

Buy We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden at Amazon.com.


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