30+ wildlife and nature books for children

Reading nature books with children is a great way to encourage an interest in wildlife. Books can introduce new species, places, words and concepts, and it's a great way to spend time together as a family.

Mother and daughter reading in a park.

From picture books about bats or microscopic species, to guides about climate change and celebrating environmentalists, there’s a wide range of amazing titles being published for children.

The Brilliant Book of Bugs

By Jess French, illustrated by Claire McElfatrick. Published by DK, £14.99.

Brilliant Book of Bugs_CMYK

This stunningly visual book is certain to inspire children and adults alike to take a closer look at the world of minibeasts. The vibrant cover hints at what’s waiting to be discovered among the book’s page – including bees, butterflies and some awesome leaf insects.

Children’s natural curiosity is bound to be piqued by the family trees and beautiful illustrations, which give readers a closer look at the anatomy of certain insects, such as the praying mantis and its incredible adapted front legs, or how a butterfly feeds using its proboscis. The book is full of interesting facts that will appeal to youngsters – did you know that a fly’s mouthparts are like sponges, sucking up soft food and liquids?

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Author Jess French, not one to shy away from the world’s climate issues, touches on these problems towards the end of the book but does so in an informative yet friendly way, showing readers how they can help protect and preserve the natural world around them.

Reviewed by Matt Doogue, wildlife photographer

The NOT Bad Animals

By Sophie Corrigan. Published by Frances Lincoln, £14.99


While many nature books focus on familiar ‘wow- species’ to attract the attentions of young people, The NOT Bad Animals tries a more comedic approach. Through a series of colourful and cartoonish spreads, it sets its target firmly on the animals that most people unfairly detest and, with its own brand of enthusiastic, frothing positivity, argues that these animals are far more incredible than we dare to dream.

Thus spiders, lampooned in one spread for being monstrous night-time nasties, are in the following spread argued to be vital, charismatic bug-catchers that carefully recycle their own webs by eating them. Crows aren’t creepy – they’re faithful parents, we’re told. Likewise, foxes aren’t fiendish – they can be friendly.


Sure, pedants will baulk at the occasional misstep (crocodiles are called both dinosaurs and lizards, for instance) but the impish, anarchic charm of this book and its relentless elation for lesser-loved animals will undoubtedly keep youngsters coming back for more.

Reviewed by Jules Howard, wildlife writer

The surprising lives of animals

By Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Stef Murphy. Published by Ivy Kids, £12.99

The Surprising Lives of Animals cover

Did you know that you can make a rat laugh by tickling it? Or that spectacled caiman babysit for each other? From farming ants to Hoover the talking seal, this book contains nuggets of information to delight and fascinate readers of all ages.

Showing that animals are more like us than we might think, it covers how some species play and learn, how they use tools and partner up, and much more. But what might be an informative and entertaining one-time read is made a real treasure by the beautiful explanatory illustrations.

The Surprising Lives on Animals - Spread

As well as explaining animal behaviour, the book also touches on notable scientists and their discoveries. With a glossary and further reading included, this is the perfect springboard for any budding zoologist. And it has enough poo facts to keep kids coming back for more.

This book is perfect when it comes to teaching a nature nut something new, or sparking a new interest.

Reviewed by Emma Pocklington, nature writer

This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate

By Isabel Thomas. Published by Wren and Rook, £6.99

This Book Will Help Cool the Climate

If everybody followed the advice in this little book, we’d stand a good chance of tackling climate change. It is full of wise ways to change your lifestyle – from altering buying, eating and even playing habits to joining in with community projects. As I read it with my 10-year-old, I learned a lot and felt guilty.

But the aim is to empower rather than frighten; to deal with defeatist attitudes such as “nothing I do is going to make a difference”. Positive change can lead to heightened self-worth, new hobbies and new friendships, though the advice to wee on your compost heap might stretch neighbourly relations.

Reviewed by Fergus Collins, editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine

The Bat Book

By Charlotte Milner. Published by DK, £12.99

The Bat Book cover

Unlike Bruce Wayne, bats are well-equipped with superpowers, quickly making this big book of bat facts a firm favourite with me and my son. Charmingly illustrated with a perfect blend of science and fun, The Bat Book dispenses facts with ease – within a minute we were laughing at the idea of the fastest bat (the Mexican free-tailed) flying past us on the motorway at 100mph, and streeeeeetching to see if we could copy the giant golden-crowned flying fox’s 150cm wingspan.

The more we read, the more we learned, with sections exploring why bats hang upside down, what they eat, echolocation and, deeper into the book, bats’ key role as seed dispersers and how they keep different ecosystems healthy.

The Bat Book inside spread

On a practical note, having learned about the threats to bats and their habitats, we’re now planning on planting some bat-friendly plants to see if we can lure any flying mammals into the garden this summer.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine

The Natural History Puzzle Book

By Dr Gareth Moore. Published by Carlton Books, £14.99

The Natural History Puzzle Book cover

Did you know that on a clear night the human eye can see around 19 quadrillion miles into space? And that the earliest identified puzzle was written over 4,000 years ago? These and many other fascinating nuggets of information can be found in this engaging book inspired by exhibits in the Natural History Museum.

 There are over 100 challenges with three levels of difficulty, from fun mazes to tricky nonograms. Colourful, beautifully designed and a mine of facts, this book is ideal for ages 8–80, making it a great choice for a family of curious minds.

Reviewed by Margaret Bartlett, production editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Unseen Worlds: Real-Life Microscopic Creatures Hiding All Around Us

By Helene Rajcak, illustrated by Damien Laverdunt. Published by What On Earth Books, £14.99

Unseen Worlds cover

Microscopic ‘mini-fauna’ rarely receives even a footnote in most children’s books. Unseen Worlds attempts to put that right with a series of dramatic dioramas of everyday habitats and the tiny, but no less charming, animals they contain.

The fibres of your bed, a dusty kitchen corner, a tuft of moss – page-by-page, each microhabitat is zoomed in upon and exposed as a vibrant hotbed of tank-like pseudoscorpions, monster-like mites, cumbersome tardigrades and serpentine worms. Each miniature organism has a role or purpose, we’re told, no matter how small.

Crucially, scale-bars and species’ labels on each page keep the focus on science, plus there is a handy section about how microscopes work and the history of microscopy to inspire a new generation of wannabe microbiologists.

Unseen Worlds spread

Unseen Worlds delivers a simple message that resonates throughout: think small, understand big. It’s a jungle out there. Everywhere. 

Reviewed by Jules Howard, wildlife writer

Earth Heroes

By Lily Dyer. Published by Nosy Crow, £9.99

Earth Heroes cover

When I asked my 11-year-old who he associates with saving the planet, he instantly fired back the names David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. Both, fittingly, are on the cover of this colourful little hardback.

But while they clearly deserve their chapters, it’s the lesser-known of the 20 heroes introduced here that I want my son to read about – such as William Kamkwamba, the 14-year-old from Malawi who built a windmill from junk; and Isabel Soares, who saved tonnes of food waste in Portugal by persuading people to eat less-than-perfect fruit.

Given the gloomy environmental prognoses our kids are growing up with, this anthology is an inspiring reminder that even small actions make a difference.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson, section editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine

Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain

By Justin Anderson, illustrated by Paul Benson. Published by Walker Books, £12.99

Snow leopard cover

The formula for Walker Books’ nature series is a blend of evocative writing, supplementary facts and sumptuous illustrations, and it’s a winner: they’ve been favourites in our family since long before my son could read. He’s now eight – arguably a bit old for picture books, but he seized upon this latest offering by natural history film-maker Justin Anderson.

He is also a big fan of David Attenborough, so we were less than four pages in before he recognised the story from Planet Earth II, on which Anderson spent three years working.

The book provides an accessible context for that extraordinary footage and the limited palette of Patrick Benson’s illustrations perfectly evokes the hypnotic beauty of the Himalayan landscape and its most celebrated inhabitant.

Snow leopard spread

Reading it prompted a wide-ranging conversation about the tenacity of wildlife film-makers, the challenges shared by humans and snow leopards, and the uncertain future of an iconic species.

Reviewed by Amy-Jane Beer, wildlife writer

Through the Animal Kingdom

By Derek Harvey, illustrated by Charlotte Pepper. Published by DK, £9.99

Through the Animal Kingdom cover

This enticing book relates 13 remarkable animal stories, such as an Amur leopard stalking prey through snowy Siberia and the perilous migration of wildebeest across parched African grasslands.

Harvey deftly avoids the risk of triteness inherent in such an unabashed ‘greatest hits’ of the natural world. His understated text provides an easy read, packed with insight.

But Pepper’s artwork – delightful collages blending photographs with sassy illustrations – makes the book truly special. 

Through the Animal Kingdom spread

Reviewed by James Lowen, nature writer 

Encyclopedia of Animals

By Jules Howard, illustrated by Jarom Vogel. Published by Wide Eyed, £14.99

Encyclopedia of Animals cover

Illustrated children’s non-fiction is booming, especially books with an environmental tilt. This encyclopedia also follows the current trend for eschewing photographs in favour of stylised, pleasingly ‘retro’ artwork.

As a boy, I would have adored it, poring over Vogel’s fabulous depictions of the weird and wonderful animals that call this planet home.

Encyclopedia of Animals spread

With room for just 300 species, it’s necessarily selective – of the big cats, only the lion and tiger are featured, for example. Mammals and birds take up almost half the pages, but there’s a decent selection of fascinating invertebrates – the likes of bobbit worms, remipedes and sea gooseberries usually get short shrift in books like this.

Howard does a great job of highlighting each animal’s key adaptations in a couple of pithy paragraphs. Terms such as ‘copepod’ and ‘ungulate’ really need explaining, however, and there’s no glossary. Nevertheless, it’s an absorbing treasury to spark young imaginations. 

Reviewed by Ben Hoare, editorial consultant for BBC Wildlife Magazine

Red Alert!

By Catherine Barr, illustrated by Anne Wilson. Published by Otter-Barry Books, £12.99

While many children’s non-fiction books prefer to sneak conservation messages in here and there, Red Alert! boldly chooses to put wildlife conservation front-and-centre.

Readers begin by choosing an animal on the IUCN Red List, whose fate they must uncover. Turning to the correct page, they are greeted with a scene in which their animal is posed, alongside a description of the conservation challengers it faces.

The 15 threatened animals featured are thankfully diverse. As well as familiar snow leopards are gharials and corals and a memorable peacock tarantula, a lonely victim of logging.

Vibrant, colourful spreads, which are as much abut the scientists working to limit extinctions are the animals themselves, remind readers that global conservation is a race and that there is an excitement in what scientists are working to achieve. Exposition is delivered here with refreshing humanity, inspiring readers to sit up, champion the challenges that animals face and take action.

Reviewed by Jules Howard, zoologist and wildlife writer

10 Reasons to Love a Penguin/Lion

By Catherine Barr, illustrated by Hanako Clulow. Published by Lincoln Children’s Books, £9.99 each

Delightful illustrations in this pair of titles gently entice children into the world of their animal subjects. The concept of this established series is neat: each spread celebrates an enchanting dimension in the life of these charismatic creatures, pairing the artwork with a paragraph or two of succinct text.

Young readers learn, for instance, that penguins have salty sneezes and burrow into their own poo, and that lions ‘flip’ porcupines and are partial to catnaps. They’re then primed with relevant ways to ‘show their love’, from researching green energy to sponsoring a wildlife charity.

The text occasionally overgeneralises to the point of inaccuracy (South Africa is hardly ‘near’ Antarctica), and undue artistic licence is sometimes taken (Adélie penguins have black bills, not red), but these are minor quibbles

Reviewed by James Lowen, wildlife writer

Know Your Nature: British Wildlife.

By Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pennington. Published by Fine Feather Press, £8.99

Nature must compete for children’s attention these days, so any book aimed at getting kids to turn off their devices and tune into wildlife should be applauded.

This accessible book is designed as a first step for youngsters keen to learn more. It’s not a field guide, but contains a small selection of Britain’s diverse flora and fauna. Each spread represents a category of our wildlife. The fun quiz at the back tests how much young minds have absorbed.

Reviewed by Mike Dilger, naturalist and broadcaster

The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus.

By Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington. Published by Fine Feather Press, £12.99

Nothing can beat experiencing the dawn chorus first hand, however, this enchanting book makes a fine hors d’oeuvre to prepare your family for the real deal. The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus is part of an ongoing series that aims to attune both young and adult ears to the sounds of Britain’s wildlife. The book’s unique selling point is its sound bar, which provides instant access to the vocalisations of ten commonly heard birds in spring.

To my five-year-old son, who was happy to test the title’s appeal, the experience of pressing bird-emblazoned buttons for instant aural gratification were a hit. Within five minutes his restless little fingers had played each of the different songs countless times.

The carefully crafted text accompanying each species makes this book both fun and education but my only criticism would be the choice of the birds. I think blackcap and dunnock would have been better than swallow and house sparrow.

Reviewed by Mike Dilger, naturalist and broadcaster

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree

Selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frank Preston-Gannon. Published by Big Picture Press, £14.99

My daughters loved dipping into this beautiful book, an anthology of 365 poems about the natural world, taking turns to read out their favourites. Most are short, some just a few lines long, and there are also haikus, limericks and tongue-twisters. Famous names crop up – Ted Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson and Benjamin Zephaniah, for instance – though many of the poems are anonymous.

This is a satisfyingly hefty book to hold, and the poems are framed by gorgeously immersive and colourful illustrations that evoke the four seasons: spring flowers, swooping swallows, shimmering shoals of fish, autumn leaves and wintry snowscapes. While a few words and verse structures are tricky, most of the poems can easily be managed by seven- to ten-year-olds.

Reviewed by Ben Hoare, editorial consultant for BBC Wildlife

When the Whales Walked

By Dougal Dixon, illustrated by Hannah Bailey. Published by Words & Pictures, £12.99

Since evolution has become a popular primary school topic in the UK, a fleet of books on the subject has hit the shelves. Most opt for the all-too-familiar tale of the intrepid Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle and finches in the Galápagos, or the peppered moths that would follow.

Here, Dougal Dixon and illustrator Hannah Bailey opt for something else, offering 13 stories about the early experimentation of animal forms in a bid to help younger readers understand how we got here. Besides the eponymous whale, there are chapters on early dinosaur flight and warm-blooded crocodiles, alongside more familiar stories of snakes with legs and fish with feet.

Delivered with playfulness, colour and charm, Dixon’s aim is clearly to ‘show and don’t tell’, drawing readers in with wonder, rather than dry evolutionary exposition. The book achieves this with great success.

Reviewed by Jules Howard, zoologist and wildlife writer

So you think you know about Tyrannosaurus Rex/Triceratops/Diplodocus?

By Ben Garrod. Published by Zephyr, £6.99 each

How much do you think you know about dinosaurs? Prepare to have your dint-world turned upside down as you’re taken on an incredible illustrated journey through time.

Garrod writes flawlessly with his own unique blend of well-honed skill as a scientist as well as the contagious curiosity and endless exploratory mindset usually reserved for children. It feels like he’s sitting right there with you, helping you to ask and answer all the right questions, with a perfect combination of humour and expert knowledge.

He uses stories from his life, alongside interviews with a number of palaeontologists that can’t help but leave you feeling inspired. Included are practical guides to fossil hunting and quizzes to test your knowledge, together with the latest dinosaur research ensuring the everyone discovers something new.

These books will leave you thirsting to know even more about the incredible history of life on Earth and are a perfect primer for kids to learn more about the amazing ‘terrible lizards’.

Reviewed by Jon Tennant, palaeontologist 

Rainforests in 30 seconds

By Jen Green, illustrated by Stef Murphy. Published by Ivy Press, £7.99

Agreed seven, my inaugural rainforest experience came courtesy of Sir David Attenborough, in Life On Earth. My daughter is now the same age: Sir David similarly introduced her to the world’s richest habitats through Planet Earth II. This piqued her interest about Daddy’s years working in jungles. Appetite whetted, she can depend her understanding through this charming book.

Prolific author Jen Green caters for short attention spans among readers aged 8-11, catering admirably through 30 topics encompassing the what, where and how of rainforests, plus their wildlife, human residents and – importantly – threats.

Subjects are granted a three-second summary, 30 seconds of fact-packed text (which actually takes nearer a minute to read) and a welcome three-minute ‘mission’ inviting kids to study camouflage or survey mini beasts.

The book isn’t perfect. Odd factual glitches include an assertion that sloths favour the rainforest understory (rather than the canopy). But such minor grumbles do not detract from a well-presented product.

Reviewed by James Lowen, wildlife writer

The Coral Kingdom

By Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber. Published by Words & Pictures, £12.99

This beautifully illustrated book will be pulled off the shelf time and time again, artfully combining rhythmic verse for younger listeners with interesting and accurate content to keep older children engaged. Flipping through the pages is rather like floating over a real reef, with colourful new vistas and different species at every turn.

The huge cast of both familiar and lesser-known reef characters is introduced on the inside covers, adding a puzzle dimension to the book as you search for the royal blue tang, star coral and cone snail.

Though it ends with a strong ecological message about coral bleaching, featuring key facts and the actions we can all take to safeguard the sea, it first and foremost immerses children in the colourful, diverse and fascinating world of the coral reef.

Reviewed by Sue Ranger, engagement and education manager, Marine Conservation Society

The Ways of the Wolf

By Smriti Prasadam-Hall and Jonathan Woodward. Published by Wren and Rook, £12.99

This is a beautiful book. Jonathan Woodward’s illustrations are moody, intense and mysteriously wolfy. I keep returning to the centrepiece – a depiction of shadowy wolves creeping across a midnight landscape.

The writing is succinct and lucid, communicating to children what they need to know about wolf biology, geographical range, place in the ecosystem and current threats. I do have a few tiny quibbles, however. It is perhaps not strictly true that wolves post little threat to humans: in India, they are blamed for numerous casualties. And their ‘shyness’ may not be a fixed characteristic. I suspect they were bolder in the past and, as we cease persecuting them, that they will become bold again.

It’s the pictures that carry the book. I would love to own the originals. In fact, I suggest you buy two copies: one for the bookshelf, and the other (dear oh dear) to dismember and paste lovingly across the children’s bedroom walls.

Reviewed by Stephen Mills, wildlife writer

True or Poo?

By Dani Rabaiotti and Nick Caruso, illustrated by Ethan Kocak. Published by Quercus, £9.99

In the follow-up to their New York Times bestseller Does It Fart?, zoologist Dani Rabaiotti and ecologist Nick Caruso take on a new challenge with True or Poo?

This time they investigate a range of animal myths, some of which have perpetuated for centuries. For example, ‘scorpions can die of constipation if they shed their tails’ (true), ‘all moths eat clothes’ (poo) and ‘earwigs lay eggs in your ears’ (also poo). As usual, the fascinating scientific facts are accompanied with delightful illustrations by Ethan Kocak.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial & digital co-ordinator for BBC Wildlife

A Book of Bears: At home with bears around the world.

By Katie Viggers. Published by Laurence King, £11.99

Ursids are a cultural phenomenon, immortalised in many children’s characters, from Paddington and Winnie-the-Pooh to, er, Bungle. So, this fun-filled look at the world’s eight species is a must for any child under 10. The illustrations are cartoon-like but there are plenty of hard facts, too.

The dietary details can feel a trifle misleading (sun bears don’t only eat honey-related products, surely), but that’s a minor quibble.

Reviewed by James Fair, environmental journalist

Howl Like A Wolf.

By Kathleen Vale. Published by Storey Publishing, £14.99

“Have you tried any of the activities in the book?” I asked my 10-year-old son in preparation for this review. “Well,” he replied sheepishly, “I did pee on a tree to mark my territory.” In fact, Howl Like a Wolf rather conservatively suggests “scratching the ground” or “putting up flags” to do this, even though wolves use “smelly pee and poop” in real life.

I then persuaded my seven-year-old to sneak up on his mum like a leopard while she was putting clothes away. The point is that children learn about the biology of animals by imitating them, and this engaging book offers ideas to emulate 15 species – whether wriggling through tight spaces like an octopus, dressing in stripy clothes like a skunk or flicking out your tongue to eat popcorn off a table, like a frog.

“Why don’t you try singing like a humpback in the bath?” I suggested later. “Just don’t practise any breaching.”

Reviewed by James Fair, environmental journalist

A World of Birds

By Vicky Woodgate. Published by Big Picture Press, £14.99

As children, many of us probably spent more than one wet day poring over Dorling Kindersley-style illustrated books, eagerly taking in the facts and figures.

Vicky Woodgate’s A World of Birds uses a similar fact-based approach to introduce a selection of 75 species from across the globe, from magnificent frigatebirds to kingfishers to eclectus parrots. Special adaptive features are picked out, along with various quirky snippets on behaviour and biology.

While my three-year-old enjoyed the colourful illustrations and pointing out the species he recognised, the book’s main appeal will be to slightly older children, who will no doubt delight in reciting their new-found knowledge: wild turkeys, for instance, can run at speeds of up to 40kmph; bee hummingbird eggs are the size of peas; and kingfishers have a third, transparent eyelid.

Reviewed by Kate Risely, British Trust for Ornithology

The Big Sticker Book of the Blue

By Yuval Zommer. Published by Thames & Hudson, £8.95

How do you make a book on marine wildlife even more fun? Add stickers! In this lively follow-up to Zommer’s previous Big Books of Beasts and Bugs, kids are encouraged to think about how sea creatures communicate, swim and eat by sketching, colouring and sticking.

They’ll learn how anglerfish use dangling lights to lure prey; how the flattened tails of sea snakes power them through the water; and how seahorses grip seaweed with their tails. Minor inaccuracies aside (‘humpbacks’ are clearly sperm whales), this is a colourful treat for youngsters.

Reviewed by Paul Bloomfield, freelance writer

Beetle Collector’s Handbook

By M.G Leonard. Published by Big Picture Press, £10.99


Grab your sweep net and find a quiet corner because this book is written in such an engaging way that young readers need to be prepared to share it or hide it from adults! The latest book by M.G Leonard, it takes the reader on a journey of entomological discovery that is as delightful as it is educational. Written as a beetle guide by the fictitious father, ‘Monty G Leonard’, of Darkus, a character from the author’s previous Beetle Boy series, it is packed with facts and entertaining annotations whilst lavishly sprinkled with beautiful, anatomically correct drawings.

From describing beetle species to practical tips on how to find, capture and conserve with a comprehensive entomologist’s dictionary, the pages are a pleasure to turn. It is simply bursting with everything that is Coleoptera.

Reviewed by Sally-Ann Spence, entomology educator

We Build Our Homes

By Laura Knowles, illustrated by Chris Madden. Published by Words and Pictures, £12.99

We Build Our Homes Cover

This boldly illustrated children’s book relates 26 double-page stories of ‘incredible animal architects’ that create remarkable structures in which to live, sleep, raise offspring, store food or impress a mate. The master builders are both familiar (moles) and oddball (meerkats).

Succinct text conveys image-rich detail. Weaver nests dangle ‘like colossal raindrops’; Darwin’s bark spider webs ‘stretch as far as three buses, end-to-end’. My daughter was entranced by edible-nest swiftlets building nest-cups with their own spittle, and termites converting their poo into citadels.

The concept is simple but clever. Focusing on a commonality between people and other animals – the need for a safe home – generates empathy. We may be the ‘land-takers, world-shapers’ but we share with other creatures ‘this one planet we call home’. A compelling book, gloriously executed.

Reviewed by James Lowen, nature writer

The Sea Book: Meet the marvellous creatures living in our oceans

By Charlotte Milner. Published by DK, £12.99

The Sea Book jacket_CMYK

I suspect Charlotte Milner is a fan of Octonauts. The BBC animated TV series, which has ‘edutained’ a generation of youngsters on the subject of marine biology, is echoed in both the artwork and text of The Sea Book. I couldn’t help hearing the voice of Shellington, the Octonaut’s scientific sea otter, when I read this book.

That’s not a criticism. Like Octonauts, The Sea Book places the planet’s oceanic zoological wonders in a wider ecology of food webs, ecosystems and planetary processes. Environmental concerns are raised, but without scaring the living daylights out of any children, or their parents. It is a masterful execution of Albert Einstein’s dictum that everything should be made as simple
as possible, but no simpler.

But who cares what I thought? Over to my focus group of two eight-year-old children (at the older end of the target readership): “Some of it is a bit obvious,” said one (well, she did grow up watching Octonauts, after all), “but most of it is very interesting.” Her favourite fact was that zebra sharks have spots, not stripes. Meanwhile, it kept her brother completely quiet for a whole 18 minutes. As a parent, what more could you ask for?

Reviewed by Stuart Blackman, science writer

The Sea: Exploring our blue planet

By Miranda Krestovnikoff, illustrated by Jill Calder. Published by Bloomsbury, £12.99

The Sea hi-res Cove_CMYKr

‘It’s your work, Mummy, why do you want me to do it?’ My son just turned eight and is getting wise. He took some persuading when I asked him to co-review this colourful compendium. I lured him by suggesting that the author, the naturalist and TV presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, is part zoologist, part-mermaid.

The book did the rest. There’s a beautiful balance of words and art – we loved the variety and authenticity of colours in Jill Calder’s habitat illustrations – you can almost hear the breeze on the clifftops, inhale the weirdly pleasing stink of saltmarsh, feel sundried salt crusting on your skin.

The text is authoritative, accessible and respectful (no ‘killer sharks’ or ‘cute dolphins’). The final spread on ocean plastic is timely but felt a bit of a bolt-on to a book that is otherwise celebratory, with other conservation issues not getting comparable treatment.

Reviewed by Amy-Jane Beer, wildlife writer

The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth

By Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Wren & Rook, £12.99


It’s always fun to ask children what they think of the book they’re reading. Nine-year-old number one was all praise. He especially enjoyed the works of art that are the maps and flow diagrams (“very detailed but not complicated”). Nine-year-old number two was slightly more critical.

Her only gripe with the book itself was that the letter E is “written funny” in the annotations. (It is, too.) She was more disgruntled after reading about the extinction of the dodo. (Pity the poor, hungry sailor who ate the last one, should they ever meet.)

She’s “pretty sure,” though, that there’ll still be one or two hiding somewhere. This beautiful book is a treasure trove of facts, new words, concepts and ways of looking at the natural world.

Reviewed by Stuart Blackman, science writer


Main image: Mother and daughter reading in a park. © Michael H/Getty