I was kindly sent a free copy of this hardback book by the publisher Walker Books for a review. It is quite a heavy hardback book, here is my review:
‘A First Bool of Animals’ is filled with beautiful images of various animals and accompanying poetry. This is a large hardback book, slightly taller and wider than A4. Being hardback and filled with thick glossy pages it’s a heavy book with an outer paper sleeve too. Inside there are beautiful images of different animals with each creature being given a poem which better describes the animal or something about their habitat or actions.
The book has a contents which lists every animal and is arranged into categories such as Big and Small, Animal Homes and Animals in Action. After this each page or double page features some beautiful and rather realistic images of the animals. The text that appears are supposed to be poems but I don’t like the majority of the text. While a few of the poems rhyme, most don’t and in fact some don’t even sound like poems and more like a piece of text explaining the animal, but it’s arranged and is supposed to be a poem. While some poems are simple:
-The ostrich lives in Africa, In grasslands hot and dry, The biggest bird in all the world; In fact too large to fly.
Others are more complex and I don’t even think some young children will understand the words and the lack of rhyme makes it less appealing as I believe repetition or rhyming really helps young children enjoy the book so much more:
-Fast and fierce: Fin flouncing, flashing, flexing; Sword swishing, stabbing, slashing. Small fry flinch and die As the sailfish feeds, swift and furious.
The poetry in the book might appeal to older children and adults but I really feel that this being a ‘First Book’ of animals, it should have easy to remember or recall rhyming. And as someone who writes rhyming poetry I know several alternatives that would have sounded better.
The pictures in this book are lovely and are quite a realistic image of the real animal. I do love this but I don’t know if very young children will appreciate an almost photographic image of a flea or other insects. A few pages in this book don’t feature a poem and animal but are a little like fact sheets, explaining how to tell the difference between mammals, fish, birds, etc., or the different types of eggs that can be laid for example. These are interesting but have some smaller text and again I’m not sure if this book is really intended for children that are older than the target age of 3+.
There’s one more thing I’ve noticed which has led to a debate and that’s the spelling of the word anemone. The book has the word spelt: Anenome which all dictionaries I’ve searched have flagged this as wrong. I wouldn’t usually bring up a spelling problem but to have this in a book where kids may learn the spelling of words you want to make sure they learn the proper English spelling and not get it wrong from a young age.
Overall this is a lovely book and I wish it had better poetry in it so I could award it more stars. I really love the beautiful colour images but with a few over accurate pictures of insects, a title font which might not be so easy for young kids to read and a majority of poetry which doesn’t rhyme it just feels like this book is lacking. I’m not sure whether others agree with me but it’s not as good as I think it could have been.
Nicola Davies, the award-winning author of A First Book of Nature, presents a spellbinding treasury of poems about the animal world, illustrated in breathtaking detail by Petr Horacek. Polar bears playing on the ice, tigers hunting in the jungle, fireflies twinkling in the evening sky and nightingales singing in the heart of the woods – there are animals everywhere. From blue whales to bumblebee bats and everything in between, A First Book of Animals takes you all over the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures. This book is a glorious celebration of life in the wild in all its variety and splendour, and belongs on every child’s bookshelf.