BETA Readers, It’s About the Book – Not You

I’ve agreed to Beta read someone’s book in the future but having never done it before and more than likely I’ll need some in the future myself, this article by author A. Giannoccaro is a great source of information:

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BETA readers, it’s about the book – not you.

For me over the last five (now six) books my beta team has proved to be one the most valuable resources. Sometimes we need that unbiased opinion to separate us from our ‘book babies’ so we can see the faults. These are often the first eyes on your work and they give their time and effort to help you make it better. I want my beta team to rip it to shreds so I can sew it all back together better in the end. It’s not about me, it is about putting out the best book possible.

What I look for in a beta reader.

  • Honesty without fear
  • Good grasp of grammar spelling and the English language
  • A love of the genre I write

What I want my beta to do for me.

I ask them to answer these questions first and foremost

  • does the opening grab me – does it make me want to read on?
  • does the story begin at the right place? (might seem trivial but I think it’s very valid)
  • are the characters compelling? Do I get a good sense of who they are
  • are the secondary characters well rounded (can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the secondary character has held my interest more than the main)
  • is there internal and external conflict for the main character?
  • are those conflicts believable?
  • is the premise for those conflicts cliche? tired? been used 1000 times before?
  • Are the plot twists believable?
  • do the characters respond to those adversities in a believable way?
  • how’s the story paced? Any parts that drag? Any parts you would like to see fleshed out?
  • are the settings enough to give me a sense of time and place?
  • am I telling any parts as opposed to showing?
  • how is the overall feel of the work? fresh? inspiring to read? is the content trigger worthy?
  • what are your favourite parts and why?
  • what are three things that worked best for you?
  • what are three things that didn’t work for you?

Then I ask for comments and corrections to be made on the google document we share as beta group so that all feedback is in one place making edits and rewrites easier.

What my betas expect from me

  • A clear deadline
  • The best version of my work possible at that stage of drafting.
  • open communication without being hurt, offended, upset or whiny if they don’t like what they read they don’t have to like it they do have to tell me why they don’t
  • respect of their time and effort, consider all their comments and feedback equally

Things I DON”T want from a beta

  • Don’t just say it was wonderful I wouldn’t change anything
  • Don’t tell me you loved it to spare my feelings
  • do not rip my heart out – if you hated it tell me nicely
  • do not share my work with anyone else (I have an NDA in place and think all authors should)

Is your work ready for BETA?

When is the right time?

  • Is the story complete?
  • Have you done at least one round of self editing and rewrites?
  • Have you used spell check?
  • Yes to all of these? Read it again then send it.

Beta reading is a step to me that cannot be skipped in the writing process, it can make the difference between a good book and a best seller. Bland can become phenomenal if you work at it enough with the right team. Build your tribe wisely, seek bets in reading groups and writing groups where people are like minded and supportive. You might go through a tray full of rotten apples before you find the ones that you can work best with, and that’s okay! Once you find a team of good beta readers, hang onto them, treat them like gold and they will continue to be the most valuable part of your tribe.

I hope this insight can be useful to other authors trying to build their own tribe, or even just refining their beta process. I believe if we share our knowledge we can all grow stronger together.

**This is my experience and advice and is in no way the gospel on this subject.

xx

A.Giannoccaro

Author


I think this information is invaluable to both the beta readers and the authors looking for them.  Thank you for allowing me to publish this article and to find out more about A. Giannoccarro and her books please check out these links:

Facebook (best place to find the author)

Goodreads

Website

 

Interview with Author Darrell Drake

Today is special as I’m holding my first interview on this blog with Darrell Drake, author of historical fantasy ‘A Star-Reckoner’s Lot’.  The book is officially released on 2nd October (Sunday) but it’s available to purchase right now.  I will be following this interview with a review of ‘A Star-Reckoner’s Lot’ on Friday 30th September.  Let’s start by taking a quick look at the book and then into the interview🙂.

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Book Blurb: For some, loss merely deprives. For others, it consumes.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been.
Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.

Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.

1. Please tell us about A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. What is the book about and what is a Star-Reckoner?

A Star-Reckoner’s Lot follows the life of Ashtadukht: star-reckoner, widow, and adventurer. Her story unfolds through glimpses of her many quests—from battling forty-armed giants to overcoming sorcerous illusions. These quests center mainly on her many tasks as a star-reckoner, a title which charges her with uprooting the monster-like divs inhabiting greater Iran (though her clemency toward these divs earns her no small amount of scorn from her peers). These journeys are but steps in her true path: that of bringing the div who murdered her husband to justice. As readers will come to discover, it’s never as simple as it seems.

Star-reckoners function as a conduit of sorts. Far above, in the celestial sphere, the wicked planets wage a millennia-long war with the life-giving stars. Star-reckoners have learned to find their place in that war, and channel or coax a small portion of that battlefield into feats of magic. It’s not an entirely vague system, though: I have developed the mechanics, and used actual star charts of ancient skies to determine the outcome of each and every lot Ashtadukht draws (drawing a lot is a term for star-reckoning . . . not for scribbling often). That said, star-reckoners have no innate power of their own. They have been rigorously trained in their craft. Any human who can learn, and withstand the torturous training, can become a star-reckoner. Star-reckoners do, however, possess an impressive knowledge of the underpinning of their craft: from star-reckoning itself to the nature of divs to astronomy to generally supernatural affairs. It’s worth noting that Ashtadukht’s star-reckoning is unnaturally unpredictable, which plays a vital role in the story (and yet again earns her the scorn of her peers).
2. The main charcter Ashtadukht has a debilitating illness. What made you decide to add this to her character? How does it impact her story?

I wanted to make Ashtadukht headstrong and capable yet human. And I wanted to show that you could do that with someone who wouldn’t take travel as well as those who are sound of mind and body. Both her mental health and her illness come to play in her journey—often working against her in their ways. But it was important to show that while she sometimes found herself in a bad way, it was always temporary. She is determined in her cause, tenacious.

While I can’t give the full scope of its impact on her story due to spoilers, I will say it challenged her daily. And I hope it impressed upon readers just how prevalent it was in her day to day life—not to mention the more obvious issues it causes her along the way. That it adequately illustrated her strength of will.

3. The setting of the book is Ancient Iran. Is this a time period you’re particularly interested in? What other periods in history interest you?

It should be said that I wasn’t all that interested in it until I started research for the book. But the same goes for other hobbies. Archery, birding, stargazing: all brought on by research for one book or another. Now that I’ve spent years with my nose buried in its annals, I can say the same for ancient Iran. Long after finishing A Star-Reckoner’s Lot, I find myself reading academic papers and picking up the few inexpensive books on the subject (for which Touraj Daryaee should be thanked).

I’m not nearly as versed in other periods or empires, but I can’t deny an interest in ancient and medieval China and Japan. Ancient Greece, Rome, and Central Asia come with the territory of studying ancient Iran. You can’t have one without the other—not if you want the full picture anyway.

4. Did you do a lot of research for this novel?

Oh, boy. I did far more research than writing. Besides taking notes and working on the outline and intricacies of the plot, I spent about two and a half years researching before I wrote a word of the story. In contrast, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot was written from December to May. So about six months give or take. Research included but was not limited to: visiting the university library many times over the course of a year to check out as many books as I could manage, reading the various academic papers, consulting websites like Encyclopaedia Iranica and Avesta.org, viewing the modest collection at the Royal Ontario Museum, studying but not properly learning Pahlavi, and who knows what else. I would have visited Iran if it were in the cards.

5. Do you think you’ll write another novel with the same setting?

I want to, but I honestly don’t know. It all hinges on the success of A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. There is certainly more to be told.

6. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot was funded using Kickstarter. How did this go and is it a method you’d recommend to other indie authors?

I wouldn’t say it went great, but it was nevertheless successful. I ran a Kickstarter in the summer of last year which wasn’t successful—I overestimated the support I could muster. So I addressed that with a more modest goal this time around. More than anything, it was a month of near-constant stress.

I’d only recommend it to other indie authors on three conditions. First, that they have something of an audience and circle of support. Second, that they adequately prepare and polish the Kickstarter without simply throwing it out there. Not only is it less likely to succeed, it doesn’t reflect well on the book, or rest of us for that matter.  And lastly, if they don’t mind a month of stress.

7. What made you choose the self-publishing rather than traditional route?

While I recognize (and envy at times) the advantages of traditional publishing, I don’t like the idea of resorting to finding an agent and publisher. There’s nothing appealing to me about supplicating to a select few in hopes of my work ever making it out there—with bleak odds no less. That isn’t to say I haven’t sent my fair share of queries. But it was never something I meant to rely on.

8. How do you spend you free time when you’re not writing?

I’m pretty boring. I like quiet; I like calm. An ideal day would be sleep, sleep, sleep, and whaddya know more sleep. But I pass the time by reading (currently Tower of Swallows), gaming, playing weekly P&P, entertaining my cat, and doing everything I can to promote A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk to glimpse the birds that call the harbourfront home.

9. How long have you been writing fiction? Is it something you’ve done since childhood?

Afraid I can’t provide a definitive answer here. I’ve certainly had an interest in fantasy since I was young. And I participated in quite a few endeavors in writing during my teenage years that I’m better off forgetting. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many an author felt similarly. The first book I published, Within Ruin, released in fall of 2011, which I must’ve been working on since 2008 or so—worldbuilding and all.

10. Are you working on anything new right now?

Unfortunately not. I’m dedicated to A Star-Reckoner’s Lot at the moment. Some authors can juggle multiple projects like it’s nothing. I am not one of them. So I’m doing my utmost to get the book out there, to get it noticed, and to get it in the hands of readers. What the future holds is beyond me.
And some fun questions…

11. (I think I know the answer to this one but…) Cats, Dogs, Meerkats, Neither or something else?

I feel threatened! What happens if I don’t answer meerkats? In my defense, I have visited the Toronto Zoo twice. Both visits involved watching the meerkats scurry around in their enclosure. Surely that counts for something?

Kowtowing aside, cats and birds. My life could probably be chronicled in terms of cats—much like the regnal reckoning of the civilizations of yore. There has always been one cat or another in the family, and I’ve always had an affinity for them (the opposite for dogs). I serenade mine regularly, which I’m convinced is integral to a healthy cat-human relationship. Birds are a more recent development. They’re limited to being watched from afar, though—I wouldn’t trust my cat with one. Well, mostly afar. I did have one alight on my hand in Japan. That was something.

12. Being British and a tea drinker I’d love to know: Tea, Coffee, or something else?

Both! I used to drink strictly tea. Nothing hoity-toity: orange pekoe, Earl Grey, and the rare green. Lately, I’ve been drinking more coffee, especially in the mornings. Strictly for the caffeine. When it comes to preference, it’s really up to my mood at this point. I keep both stocked, that’s for sure.

13. If you could live in any novel, which one would you choose?

Well, I suppose that depends on what role I’d have in said novel. I’m not too keen on being a sacrifice. Or a thrall to some mind flayer. Or a peasant. The list goes on. An archmage in any of the Forgotten Realms novels would be nice. Not just power for the sake of power, but because of all the possibilities. Those learned mages harness potent forces to perform feats most people, even people in their setting, couldn’t dream of. At the same time they aren’t burdened with godhood, which I believe lends to a greater appreciation for their accomplishments.

Exploring the galaxy in Saga also sounds like a good time, danger notwithstanding. Otherwise, somewhere I can relax. Maybe with the odd adventure here and there. But comfort and relaxation would be nice.

Thank you so much for your time Darrell🙂.

Thank you very much for having me, and for your upcoming review! Your questions were wonderfully probing, and gave me the opportunity to discuss some topics I haven’t discussed elsewhere.

About the Author

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Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.

Websites
http://www.darrelldrake.net
http://www.astarreckonerslot.com

Social Media Links
Facebook
Twitter
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Reddit

Almost 10 Months of Blogging News….

Warning the following post is long but WORTH IT!  :)  Let me know if you like the new image style posts or think it’s terrible😮

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So, I have been struggling for a bit lately in keeping up with things.  As usual I’m feeling overwhelmed with things and it’s resulted in me being less active on wordpress again than I would like.  The last few months have been amazing for me and I wouldn’t change them for anything, despite a few hiccups along the way.  I thought I’d write up this post to let you know what’s been happening and what I have planned so hopefully you’ll want to stick around and keep reading this blog🙂.

Let me start by saying that September has been an amazing month so far.  There’s been an official end, a backdoor permanently installed, if you will, on the horrible mess of ‘bad’ authors I had to deal with.  Having been through those experiences I’m happy to report that I’ve not faced another author with such strange mood or attitude again.  I think my Respect the Reviewer article on how to find contact and get along with reviewers has really helped in both getting an understanding from authors on how to act with me and it’s helped me in not feeling like a doormat anymore, someone who can be pushed around and yelled at.  For many years I’ve suffered low confidence and low self esteem and the last few months have really led to some changes.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on My Trending Stories (and reposted it here) called Why Blog Can it Save You Life.  Now this article has been shared a bit too and is a personal post about me and what blogging has done but just to make it that bit better I’ve now had the post re-published on an amazing site called Project Believe in Yourself or PBIY.  This is an amazing website that I urge everyone to check out, just spend a couple of minutes visiting and see if it’s somewhere you’d like to follow and even get involved.  It’s all about realizing your true potential and making a difference in the world to other people.  Not only has this post been published there (check out the cute penguin!)

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but I’ve also been listed as a contributor and been given the honour or putting this badge up on this blog:

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I’ve not been the best contributor though as I’ve not yet joined the forum as I’ve promised to do and will be more active in the coming weeks there.  Please do check out the site though if you can spare a few minutes (most links open in a new tab).

The Big News…

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Now for those of you with keen reading of that post I made you will have noticed I said I have started writing.  Well here’s the big news for me for September….I have started writing…a novel!!!

This is bigger news than you can imagine.  For years I’ve struggled with my own self confidence.  I was a creative person in when I was young but upon entering the secondary school system (age 11+) my who self confidence shattered.  Not only did I face problems regarding my isolation as a diabetic (more on that in a future post) but I gained weight and didn’t feel I fitted in which gave me social problems and regular bullying too.  However it’s the school teachers who really drove the knife in any personal worth I had and though I thought I was pretty good at art and English (with room for improvement of course) I left school at 16 believing I was worthless, that my creativity sucked and that I would never, ever, ever, EVER be able to write fiction!  Not only did I develop a deep hatred for my own work but I truly believed that I couldn’t write, that nobody would ever value any story I wrote and worse, that all my story ideas were stupid because they didn’t fit the ideas that others had.

School was soul destroying and had left a deep wound I thought would never heal.  Having spent time firstly on amazon writing reviews (which I still love doing today and hope I’m still providing helpful honest reviews), I then took the plunge and started writing poetry.  When that was well received I moved into writing articles on subjects I cared about, this too was well received.  After publishing my Respect the Reviewer series of articles (click here for one, two and three).  I got my post about contacting reviewers published on several other blogs.  It was shared and re-blogged around the web.  It’s probably the most viral post I’ve ever had which is amazing considering I thought only a few people would ever be interested in reading it.  This alone gave me confidence in my own writing, be it non-fiction.  My foray into social media has worked wonders and I’ve met so many wonderful people and have even been ‘pushed’ by some to do more on my blog.  I’ve embraced every ‘push’, every challenge that has come my way and I am in such a different place now than I was a year ago.

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For those who have read my about page you’ll know I was left shattered after something happened to me.  No I’m still not ready to tell you what that was, it’s still too raw, but considering I still didn’t have much confidence in myself and wasn’t even sure if I could review a book well, let alone write one shows just how far I’ve come.

Meeting so many new people, bloggers, writers, readers, etc., plus reading lots of books and reviewing them (which really helps you know how a book works and doesn’t) has started a new phase for me.  A phase I am embracing with open arms and that is my own fiction writing.  Whether I write something decent or not is something I’ll not be able to answer myself and whether I do and how long it would take to write a novel is again something I just can’t say.  But I’ve got a new thrill in doing something I’ve always dreamed of doing.  So that’s the big news.  I am writing again.  Of course the last few days of creative writing have caused me to get all messed up with schedules and things.  I have so many things happening that I’m all over the place.  Of course I will keep up the book reviewing and poetry which is quite fun and cathartic experience for me🙂.  But I don’t want to lose the buzz and my new found love of writing so I’m currently struggling to find the balance.  I WILL get there and sort myself out.  I just wanted to let everyone know what’s happening.  I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was 13 and I now think that maybe, just maybe, one day I will be🙂.

The coming weeks on my blog are going to get more hectic (hence the struggling to make it work) but I’m glad of the extra stuff that I’ll be doing and I hope you’ll want to keep on reading this blog despite my slight absences on wordpress.  I will try to keep up with all your blogs but I need a bit of time to sort myself out and with the new writing buzz I don’t want to stop the flow of creativity so I may be late in responding to comments or will be putting out blog posts scheduled again.

So what’s happening?….

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I’ve decided to let you know and set some goals.  This week – tomorrow!!!- there will be my first ever author interview!!!  It’s the first interview or Q&A I’ll be holding (thank you Andrew for pushing me to do this) and I hope you’ll all take a look at my questions and the wonderful answers by the author Darrell Drake.  That post will come out early tomorrow (Tuesday 27th).  A review of his new release will be up later this week too.

The second thing I plan for October is to get a page on the website of all my appearances on the web.  Okay maybe more for myself than anyone else but I thought it would be nice to have a one page where you can go to all the various links if you want to see what other places I’ve guest posted in – turns out it’s a lot!😮

In November I have a giveaway planned with another coming out December/January.  These along with many fun reviews and possible other things in the future are going to make my one year anniversary feel special! :)  Not sure which day to celebrate.  I ‘officially launched’ my website/blog on 16th December but my first blog post which netted a follower and likes (thanks to tags) was 30th November – which date do you think I should celebrate?  Considering it’s also my birthday in November I’d like your input, will I have a celebration close to b-day or about a month apart?😀

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I’ll plan something for my birthday too.  Not a giveaway necessarily but something🙂.

So….

That’s it for now!  Hope you can join me for the next two fun filled and happy months!🙂.  Check out tomorrow’s interview and I’ll have some more reviews soon.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be asking YOU for reviews!😮

Thank you so much everyone!  It’s because of you I’ve gained all my confidence and because of you that I continue to write this blog.  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you guys and I would never have dared to publish poetry or articles let alone now delve into fiction writing without your continued support.  Thank you for every like, share and follow.  I really appreciate every one of you who comes here and reads my words.  Thank you and I hope you’ll enjoy happymeerkatreviews for a long time🙂❤ .

Follow me and happymeerkatreviews on:

Facebook

Twitter

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Plus two others you might be interested in:

Goodreads

My Trending Stories

Tell me if adding my links annoys you I’d like to know if it’s a good idea to add the links or a bad one😮 ! 

10 Proofreading Tools For Writers: Guest Post by Mary Walton

Everyone knows I use the adage ‘proofread to death!’ Here are some excellent tools to make it that much easier. With many other reviewers (not me) pointing out simple proofreading errors it’s important to make sure your manuscripts look flawless!🙂

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If you’re anything like me, you have already installed Grammarly on your computer and use it to make sure those pesky commas and prepositions are all correct. However, editor Mary Walton recently alerted me to not one, but ten alternative tools that you can use to make sure your writing is as flawless as possible! I hope you find her post as useful as I did.

10 Proofreading Tools For Writers

You may well be rushing to get that text out on time, but you should always stop to proofread first. Many writers have fallen foul of a spelling or grammatical error that is glaringly obvious in their copy. Before you hit ‘publish’, use these ten tools to make sure your writing is flawless.

  1. Respelt: Online, you only have fractions of a second to make a good impression. If you have misspellings on your site, it can be disastrous…

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9 Things That Cost Your Book 5 Stars – Guest Blog Post By An Amazon Top Reviewer

Check out some of my reasons why I may give a book less than 5 stars in a review! This is a guest post I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of having on Dan Alarotte – Author. Thank you Dan!!!

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Meerkat agreed to do a follow up post about stuff we writer types can do to avoid getting a less than stellar review from a reviewer.

Here are some of the top pet peeves. (Emphasis added by me)

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There are lots of reasons why I love a book and I usually see something great in all books even if they’re not my favourite genres, but there are definite reasons why I don’t like a book and if these crop up, it feels as if the book still needs editing – and it’s hard for me to give it 5 stars.

1 – Spelling errors, grammar errors, typos, etc.

I know these are perhaps the least important for some people to check and I don’t mind the very odd typo (I’m guilty of them myself) but if every page of a book has typos and…

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Daily Prompt Poetry: The Panic

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I must warn you that the picture I used for this poem is highly inappropriate considering the tone of the poem but I thought it was cute so, here it is! :p  This poem is inspired by the daily prompt word Panic (Incidently the last 3 daily prompts I’ve done no longer show on the daily prompt page😦 ).  I’m not sure if this poem sounds like something I’ve written before but it just came to me as is so apologies if it sounds similar but at least it’s not exactly the same!  Hope you like it. 

The Panic

What do I do? Where do I go?

To escape this pain, I do not know.

Do I run? Do I flee?

To stop the voices haunting me.

What will happen? If I leave?

No-one there to sit and grieve.

Will I be? All alone?

When I am mere soil and bone.

Perhaps it’s best? If I don’t think?

Might save me from the hole I sink.

Must get away, from this place.

Myself I now, do erase.

Lovely Picture Book: Animals

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I was kindly sent this picture book by the publisher Walker Books for a review.  It’s large hardback and will appeal to all ages!  Here’s my review:

This amazing book is filled with illustrations of many different animals all with a vintage feel.

This book is an amazing A3 in size and is hardback. Inside there are thick pages. Each page has a a lovely image of an animal drawn in what I can only describe as an old fashioned style. Apart from the animal picture there is also the name of the animal giving the chance for children to learn many different animal species and how to spell them.

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A lot of reviews I’ve read question the point of such a book given its size and weight but this book is meant to be handed by both adults and kids and is something fun for kids to place on the floor and look at. It can also make for a good book for someone to show to a group of children as the pictures are very large as is the writing.

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I really love the old fashioned style the animals are drawn in and this book is certainly one that appeals to me and I know I would have loved this book when I was younger. The retro feel of the images show the animals well and there is a focus on the image and name giving children a chance to learn the different animal species. What’s interesting is the variety of different animals in this book, from simple well known animals like cat, dog, cow to more exotic ones including a gorilla, lion and meerkats (which I just HAD to take a picture of!).

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Overall I think this is a lovely book. Parents look at it with their kids and as long as you teach young kids to carefully turn the pages, imagine how amazing it is to get such a big book!

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For more images and links to amazon UK, US and Goodreads please click here (opens in a new tab)