Book reviews: Discovery and adventure in our wonderful world

Discovery and adventure in our wonderful world
Discovery and adventure in our wonderful world
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See the world in a whole new way, and discover adventure at every turn, in an exciting new selection of books for all aspiring young explorers.

Age 8 plus:

What’s Where on Earth Atlas by Dorling Kindersley

The world is an awe-inspiring place… and now you can see it spread out before your eyes in amazing 3-D colour!

DK (Dorling Kindersley) has become a byword for beautifully designed and illustrated children’s books, and this chunky-sized atlas – a riot of colour, maps, artwork and fascinating facts – takes young readers on an exciting continent-by-continent tour of the world.

So much more than just a routine book of maps, the What’s Where on Earth Atlas brings our planet to glorious 3-D life and is like no other atlas you have ever seen.

There are over 60 specially commissioned, information-rich, themed 3-D maps and artworks for each continent on topics such as major geographical features, cities and monuments, and population and wildlife, allowing children to explore the world in detail.

From the towering peaks of the Himalayas and the rainforests of Africa to the ancient buildings of Europe and the mega-cities of Asia, this is a journey of thrilling discoveries. Where is the hottest place on the planet, which is the most densely populated country on Earth, where can you find the world’s largest butterfly and what is the most crossed international border in the world?

Learn about climate, population, wildlife, the landscape, see countries from space and views of them by night, and discover fascinating facts about landlocked countries, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, lakes and landmarks.

A superbly produced book, each glossy page is brimming with full-colour illustrations offering inspirational views and easy-to-read facts about our wonderful and amazing world, allowing youngsters to get close up to each continent’s history, geography, climate and wildlife.

The atlas supports the National Curriculum up to Key Stage 3 and is an ideal reference guide for schools and all the family.

Take a look at the world as you’ve never seen it before!

(DK Children, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Earth Book by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook

And here is another world of wonders just waiting to be discovered!

Author Jonathan Litton, whose writing is rooted in scientific research, and illustrator Thomas Hegbrook have journeyed to all corners of the planet to create this fantastic, large format book about the Earth and all its many and majestic glories.

The Earth Book comes from 360 Degrees, a vibrant non-fiction imprint of the Little Tiger Group which produces inspirational books covering everything from natural history and human invention to art and architecture, and languages and lunar landings.

This super, sturdy book spans both physical and human geography, and combines a vast variety of information in easy-to-process, bite-sized paragraphs with stunning illustrations, making it an accessible and enjoyable read for even the younger age groups.

Explore the intertwining of human and animal lives over the ages, and the consequences this has for us now in terms of our land and sea ecosystems. Delve into the fleeting beauty of our lonely planet, from a carnival of natural wonders to influential earthlings and super cities.

There is also the chance to marvel at the physical planet, to travel back in time to primordial Earth, explore all branches of the tree of life, discover habitats from oceans to deserts, learn how the weather works and take a tour of the human inhabitation from the Maasai Steppe to Manhattan.

Illustrated throughout by Hegbrook’s superbly textured graphics, and with each spread spanning an informative and intriguing topic, this panoramic book is both a visual spectacle and an inspirational learning tool ideal for both schools and parents.

The perfect way to explore the world at the turn of the page…

(360 Degrees, hardback, £19.99)

Age 7 plus:

Under Earth Activity Book and Under Water Activity Book by Aleksandra Mizielinski and Daniel Mizielinski

Our planet is full of surprises and now you can take a hands-on look at what goes on underneath it!

Following the publication last year of Under Earth, Under Water, a giant-sized book of fascinating facts and mind-blowing revelations, the Big Picture Press has published two fantastic companion books packed full of fun facts and activities.

Under Earth, Under Water is the work of talented graphic artists Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski, the creative married couple whose giant-sized book of fascinating facts and mind-blowing revelations has succeeded in capturing the imagination of any child who ever wondered what lies beneath their feet.

From fossilised dinosaur bones, super-deep boreholes and ancient relics to giants of the deep, spectacular sinkholes and coral reefs, the large format book reveals in spectacular style how the big, wide world under the earth and sea is brimming with colour, human creations and strange creatures.

And now, using the Mizielinskis’ distinctive style, these inventive books each contain 36 tie-in activities including mazes, complete the scene drawings and imaginative scenes to colour in.

Learn fascinating facts and advice about growing your own potatoes, visit an underground city, complete a dinosaur skeleton, create your own coral reef, design a deep sea diver’s costume, or cut out and make your own amazing creatures.

The books feature stunning drawings of animals and objects found beneath the surface of the earth and sea and are guaranteed to provide hours of fun, discovery and entertainment for those rainy days and holidays.

(Big Picture Press, paperback, £8.99 each)

Age 7 plus:

Botanicum Activity Book by Curated by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott

Colouring, drawing, puzzles, facts and astonishing plants… the perfect combination for all budding artists and naturalists!

Following last year’s publication of the incredible Botanicum, a super-sized book of stunning botanical delights, and the next best thing to stepping inside a real-life exhibition of plants, author Professor Kathy Willis and illustrator Katie Scott return with a beautiful companion activity book.

Bursting with fascinating facts and puzzles, this carefully crafted book, published by Big Picture Press in association with Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, offers hours of enjoyment to artists and nature lovers, young and old.

The wide variety of activities, including mazes, spot the difference, matching crops to their names, colouring, doodling and drawing, challenge the reader to discover something new and use their imagination to draw, decorate and design on every pull-out page.

Learn how to draw a pineapple, create your own colourful cactus, find your way through a lily pad maze, and learn lots of fascinating facts to support all the activities.

The good quality paper and wonderfully intricate artwork ensure that this big, bold book is not just blooming with the most amazing plant life but can help to inspire a new generation of artists.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £8.99)

All ages:

Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman

Prepare to be bowled over as Michael Foreman, one of Britain’s most travelled authors and illustrators, takes us on an incredible pictorial journey around the globe.

Seventy-nine-year-old Foreman’s career as an illustrator has taken him through war-torn Vietnam to the vast forests of Siberia, Mao’s China, Japan, the Arctic and the South Seas, and from the top of the world to the bottom of the ocean.

His numerous books for children have earned him widespread recognition as one of the world's leading illustrators. He has regularly collaborated with Terry Jones, Michael Morpurgo and others while several of his own books are also considered modern classics.

Armed with a pencil and watercolours, Foreman’s signature style has captured the sights and sounds of all he encountered during his long career and now readers of every generation can enjoy his work and achievements with Travels With My Sketchbook, an extraordinary new memoir featuring an inspirational collection of his travel drawings and anecdotes.

The sketches, drawings and anecdotes are taken straight from the original sketchbooks and are bursting with the evocative material that provided inspiration for his award-winning stories and illustrations.

We follow Foreman’s epic journeys through America and Mexico in the 1960, from Venice along the Silk Route to China in the 1970, and to Iceland, New Zealand and India in the 1980s and 1990s.

Each of the beautiful, colour wash illustrations and personal accounts tell a story about some of the most amazing corners of the world… Shangri-La with its mountains ‘like layer cakes of different climates,’ Kashmir in India where snowfields run ‘upwards towards peaks plumed in clouds,’ and the sweeping hills, forests and miles of wild flower meadows viewed from the fabled Trans-Siberian Express train.

Foreman reveals: ‘I do a lot of research when I'm travelling – I find it thrilling to discover the particular ‘art’ of different landscapes and work them into a book. Wherever I go, I like to walk as much as possible. You are open to the sounds and smells of the place, and you can leave the roads and follow tracks across country. So it’s just you and the place, and the locals, both human and animal. I just want to look and draw.’

The world in wonderful pictures…

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £17.99)

Age 9 plus:

New Jungle Book Adventures: Spirit of the Jungle by Bear Grylls

Join real-life adventurer Bear Grylls as he sets out on a rip-roaring journey into breathtaking adventure and bare-knuckle survival.

Grylls has become known around the world as one of the most recognised faces of survival and outdoor adventure. Trained from an early age in martial arts and taught to climb and sail by his father, he spent three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS before becoming one of the youngest ever climbers to conquer Mount Everest.

Spirit of the Jungle is the first of an exciting contemporary action-adventure series inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s classic, The Jungle Book, and follows a young boy’s battle for survival in the wilds of India.

Mak has left his comfortable home in London to travel to India with his parents for his uncle’s funeral. But after being washed away down the Wainganga River during a flash flood, Mak wakes up alone in the Indian jungle.

The jungle is full of danger – poisonous snakes, cunning monkeys and desperate poachers – and every step Mak takes might be his last. Mak finds help and friendship from other jungle creatures, but he will need all his skill and luck to survive and make his way back home.

With inspirational action and thrills on every page, this is an unforgettable walk on the wild side for all young adventurers.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7-8:

Amy Lee and the Megalo of Doom by Amy Lee

A recent survey of children aged seven to fourteen revealed that one in three girls play games every day, and yet girls are more reluctant to describe themselves as serious gamers than boys…

So bypass YouTube and dive into the new action-packed adventure novel in an exciting illustrated series from Number One girl gamer Amy Lee which presents the Land of Love in a whole new way.

There could be no better way to discover the cutesy online world of Amy Lee, star of the biggest girls’ gaming channel in the UK and the bringer of love and adventure. Every day Amy, who has over 900,000 YouTube subscribers and nine million views a month, uploads videos and all have a heart-warming central message of love for each other.

In her latest outing, we find Amy Lee struggling to answer loads of questions after saving her kingdom from the Darkness Hex. Why can’t she remember her past? Who are her parents? How does magic work? And who is the funny man who keeps appearing outside?

It turns out that the Land of Love is under threat once again and this time, Amy and her friends are simply not powerful enough to defend their home. They are going to need help from the last person they would ever want to ask!

Fully illustrated and packed with adventure, Amy Lee and the Megalo of Doom brings to life the richly imagined world of Minecraft’s AmyLee33 in a high-octane quest that will leave fans laughing, smiling and gasping in shock.

So what are you waiting for? Enter Amy Lee’s amazing Land of Love without even tapping a key!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

Pet Defenders: Beards From Outer Space by Gareth P. Jones and Steve May

Dynamic duo Gareth P. Jones and Steve May are back with their madcap secret agents in another out-of-this world adventure.

Yes, it’s time to try to stop your sides from splitting as award-winning author Jones lets loose his super-funny Pet Defenders in the hilarious sequel to Attack of the Alien Dung.

These entertaining stories, brought to life by the suitably anarchic illustrations of Steve May, feature the crazy comic capers of an irresistible cat and mouse team.

The Pet Defenders are secret agents with a difference. The Earth’s safety is their primary goal; they must defend it at all costs. The second imperative is to protect humans from the truth, and that won’t be easy!

The humans of Nothington-on-Sea have no idea their sleepy seaside town is a hot spot for space invasions, and it’s up to secret agents Biskit and Mitzy to keep it that way. So when an army of alien beards arrive, the Pet Defenders need to act fast. If the Beard King gets his way, soon every living person – even the women – will be sporting a beard, and all of them will be under his control. Things are about to get extremely hairy!

These frantic, funny and action-packed animal adventures feature Jones’ trademark fast-paced humour and wacky imagination and, combined with May’s brilliantly comical and playful illustrations, make ideal, accessible reading for all young adventurers.

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Under the Same Sky by Britta Teckentrup

The world in harmony is the inspirational theme of a beautiful and moving new peek-through picture book from award winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup.

Through a simple but subtly powerful rhyming text, Teckentrup takes young readers through a magical story of unity. From penguins seeking solace together and rabbits playing in the meadow to deer frolicking in the field and flamingos sheltering from the storm, the atmospheric and intricate collages bring the animals and their environment to life, reinforcing the message that despite our differences we all live in this world together.

Sharing is the keyword to this gorgeous book which uses the animal kingdom to explore the closeness of communities … we all live under the same sky, we experience the same hopes and dreams, we sing the same songs and we share the same emotions.

Innovative, tender and with the added interest of a hands-on, peep-through cut-out on each page spread, this is the perfect book to teach your little ones about the joys of unity and friendship.

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age 2 plus:

Ready, Set, Build! by Meg Fleming and Jarvis

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go! Say hello to a playful bunch of little adventurers in this funny, rhyming picture book from author Meg Fleming and award-winning illustrator Jarvis.

Dog and Bird are building a home together… from sketching the building, to clearing the rubble, digging and using the machinery, there is so much work to do. But there are rules to follow. Don’t forget to keep your head up, break for lunch, put your goggles on… and head off home when the sun goes down!

Warm, whimsical and full of Jarvis’ distinctive, bold and painterly illustrations in a textured colour palette, this is a joyful and entertaining story about working hard, having fun and discovering the joys of a job well done.

(Templar Publishing, £6.99)