Monthly Archives: November 2018

Fascinating Fact Books – National Non-Fiction November


To celebrate National Non-Fiction November I have chosen some fantastic fact books to inform and engage even the most curious of children. Each of these books have been specially chosen for their intricate details and exquisite illustrations which are bound to delight the most inquisitive child. Amongst a wealth of brilliant non-fiction titles published this year for me these really stand out for their quality of information and striking illustrations.

Politics For Beginners – Louie Stowell, Alex Frith, Rosie Hore illustrated by Kellan Stover

For me never has it felt like a more necessary time for children to understand the world of politics. In a world of ‘fake news’, 24 hour media and complex political situations, how can we expect our children to grasp the fundamentals of what is actually happening in our world when we are drowning in opposing opinions. Step forward the brilliantly informative, ‘Politics For Beginners,’ which strips back all of the confusion in this no-nonsense, clear guide to what politics is all about. Using bright, bold illustrations and easy to understand diagrams it covers diverse topics from elections and voting, political change and looks at different political ideologies like capitalism and socialism. It also carefully explores the really big questions we face in society in relation to terrorism, human rights and freedom of speech to name a few. This is definitely one of those book that needs to be in every primary and secondary school library, it’s an essential read for all children (and adults) to help make sense of the confusing world we live in.


The Skies Above My Eyes – Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer

Following on from the marvellous, ‘The Street Beneath My Feet,‘ Charlotte and Yuval are back with another collaboration uncovering what is going on in the skies above our eyes. Cleverly constructed, this concertina double-sided format allows you to unravel the story of the ground beneath our feet or unfold the whole book on the floor for a hands on exploration. As we go about our daily life do we ever take the time to look up and think about all the things that we can see and beyond that the things we cannot see with the naked eye and need the help of a powerful telescope  to discover. Here we travel through the sky, up through the layers of atmosphere all the way to outer space, before zooming back down to solid ground. On the way we will spy skyscrapers, planes, space stations, tour the solar system and think about what lies beyond those places we have discovered. Not only is it packed with fascinating facts from Charlotte Guillain which will excite the most inquisitive child it is also visually stunning, with the most sublime illustrations form Yuval Zommer. With so many intricate details to spot you can spend hours pouring over this book and it is bound to be enjoyed over and over again. Managing to make complex information interesting and engaging, it’s perfect for newly confident readers  it’s captivating whilst still being accessible. Younger readers can enjoy exploring the illustrations, it’s ideal for sharing and discovering together.

The Beetle Collector’s Handbook – M.G. Leonard, illustrated by Carim Nahaboo

Longlisted for the 2019 Blue Peter Book Awards, ‘The Beetle Collector’s Handbook,’ is inspired by the pages of M.G. Leonard’s wonderful, ‘Beetle Boy,’ trilogy. In the story Darkus Cuttle use this very book to discover everything they will ever need to know about beetles and now it has been brought to life in this glorious celebration of entomology. Beautifully produced and packed with the most exquisite and interesting facts which will blow the mind of even the most knowledgeable beetle lover, this is an absolute gem of a book. Complemented with detailed full colour illustrations this is bound to inspire a love and fascination of the beetle population. It cleverly links to the trilogy with scribbled notes and funny observations from Darkus and his father in the margins, opening with Darkus declaring that ‘this is my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE BOOK in the world,’ which is a very high recommendation indeed. Featuring more than 50 beetles it is designed to inspire and amaze beetle lovers with its array of the most weird and wonderful  of these creatures.

A First Book of the Sea – Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton are back with another stunning collaboration in the final book in the First Book series. ‘A First Book of the Sea,’ is a stunning poetry collection celebrating the sea and all its changing moods. I have always found the sea to be the most special of places, every time we have a day out or a holiday away, I still get a thrill of excitement at that first glimpse of the sea. It’s a place that restores my soul when it’s in the darkest of places and brings back so many memories of the fun filled days we’ve had as a family on the beach. Nicola and Emily have captured perfectly the joy of a place that offers a world to explore filled with rockpools, shells, pebbles, puffins and crabs. Then goes on to uncover the secrets that lie deep in our oceans from forgotten shipwrecks, to brooding sharks and our most deadly secret the plastic that suffocates and poisons the creatures of the oceans. Emily’s sumptuous watercolour spreads bring Nicola’s beautiful, evocative poems which together take us on this magnificent journey of discovery. This is a treasure trove of a book that blends perfectly poetry and information to delight and inform the reader.

Amazing People: Young Heroes – by Lula Bridgeport, illustrated by Federica Frenna, Isabel Muñoz & Julia Swaney

I have spent a lot of the last year being asked by parents where are all the books about inspirational boys with the plethora of female focused fact collections, so I was delighted to receive a copy of ‘Amazing People: Young Heroes,’ which features extraordinary young women and men from across the world. Like ‘Amazing Women,’ this collection feels very current and accessible for younger and older readers. It includes many contemporary young and instantly recognisable young people like Daniel Radcliffe, Taylor Swift and Mark Zuckerburg who provide a gateway to encourage readers to pick up this book and explore. Yet it still features those incredible children whose achievement and passion have had a significant impact in history from Bill Gates to Pelé, who have made great  strides in their respective fields. Stunningly produced with bold, contemporary illustrations and filled with engaging information this deserves a place on every child’s bookshelf. Featuring practical and inspiring advice on how children today can make a difference in the world from small to great acts, this books empowers children to believe that they can bring positive changes to our world.


Mountains of the World – Dieter Braun

‘Mountains of the World,’ is a stunningly, spectacular non-fiction book which examines the mountains that shape our world, from the peaks of the Himalayas to  worlds of ice and snow in the Transantarctic Mountain range. It examines the formation of these magnificent geographical features and humanities exploration of them as well as their relationship with them. These great peaks have always been fascinating to explorers offering the most thrilling and deadly experiences to those who wish to conquer the most fearsome of challenges. It also highlights the wildlife who live amongst them from snow leopards to condors, this is a visual journey through the vast mountains that dominate the landscapes of the world in which we live. This book is just perfect for spending hours poring over enjoying the beautiful illustrations whilst finding out lots of amazing facts.

Thank you to Flying Eye Books, Stripes, Scholastic, Usborne, Walker Books and Wren and Rook for sending me copies of these fabulous fact books. All of these books are available to buy now online (click the link in the titles) or from any good bookshop.


The Big Books – Yuval Zommer & Barbara Taylor

To celebrate National Non-Fiction November I’m sharing with you a review and giveaway of Yuval Zommer’s ‘Big Book,’ collaboration with Barbara Taylor.  The first two books in the collection,  ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ and ‘The Big Book of Beasts,’ have both featured in my favourite book lists for the last 2 years because they are some of the finest illustrated non-fiction books that I’ve ever read. I was lucky enough to have a special guest Yuval to celebrate the release of the latest addition to the collection, ‘The Big Book of Blue.’ So let’s take a closer look inside these glorious books and explore the world all around us.

The Big Book of Blue 

‘The Big Book of the Blue,’ offers a fascinating insight into the different types of animals who live in our oceans. Dive deep into the sea to meet an array of sea creatures including the dramatically coloured dragonet, the poisonous pufferfish and flying fish  to name just a few. Discover why an octopus needs eight arms: if a ray makes electricity: why dolphins jump out of the sea and the answers to many more question in this exquisite exploration of sea life. Yuval has once again created the most sublime book filled with sumptuous spreads that invite the reader to spend hours pouring over these intricate and informative illustrations. I think it is perfectly pitched for the younger reader offering a timely reminder of  the danger our oceans face from damage caused by humans. Lavishly produced with the most interesting and thoughtful information, this book is a total triumph.

The Big Book of Beasts

“Why is a tiger stripy?’ Why are porcupines spiky? and ‘Why do wolves howl at the moon? “Find out the answers to all of these questions and many more inside the brilliantly, beautiful ‘The Big Book of Beasts’. This stunning book is bursting with facts on the lives of all kinds of beasts including pre-historic ones, it is the perfect introduction for young animal fans eager to find out more about the different beasts that roam the earth. Featuring the most stunning and intricate spreads this book is a thing of beauty.  A real joy of a read which will excite and inform both children and parents. We have dipped in and out of this book frequently, discovering new beasts and familiarising ourselves with old friends, carefully examining the pages for the mystery footprints which are so well hidden, to really test the skills of young explorers. This is an absolute gem of a book, a real treasure trove of information.

The Big Book of Bugs

‘Just how slow does a snail go? Are bugs afraid of the dark? Why do ants march in a line?’ Find out the answers to all of these questions and many more inside the brilliantly, beautiful ‘The Big Book of Bugs’. A jam packed book containing an insight into the lives of all kinds of insects and creepy crawlies, it is the ultimate guide for young bug spotters eager to find out more about the tiny creatures all around us. Featuring the most exquisite and delicate illustrations this book is a joy to behold.  A real treasure of a read which will enchant and delight children and parents alike. We have spent hours poring over this glorious book exploring familiar and unknown mini beasts and searching the pages for the hidden fly so cleverly concealed to capture children’s attentions. I simply adore this book!

Thanks to Thames and Hudson I have a set of these three wonderful books to giveaway. To enter head over to Twitter and retweet my pinned tweet and comment on the blog for an extra entry. UK only ends 18th November.

2019 Nature Month-by-Month: Children’s Almanac – Anna Wilson & Elly Jahnz

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for The Federation of Children’s Book Group’s (FCBG) celebration of National Non-Fiction November, which this year focuses on Food and Festivals Around the World. I’m thrilled to be sharing with you the ‘2019 Nature Month-by-Month: Children’s Almanac,’ written by Anna Wilson and illustrated by Elly Jahnz. This glorious book takes us on a journey through the seasons, on a month-by-month exploration of nature, featuring indoor and outdoor craft and activity ideas, seasonal recipes and celebrations of religious festivals and special days happening through the year. If you’re looking for a book to inspire children to enjoy the outdoors and learn about new cultures and experiences then this is the book for you. It’s the kind of book that encourages you to dip in and out of, giving you plenty of inspiration to entertain and inform children. With diverse activities from cloud spotting, to learning how to make your own bird food, there is enough to occupy the most activity hungry child and it will certainly satisfy the appetite of the most inquisitive mind. Beautiful colourful and diverse illustrations from Elly Jahnz make this real treasure trove of a book truly irresistible.

I am delighted to welcome Anna Wilson to the blog with a special guest post about the creation of this lovely book.

Anna Wilson – Nature Month-by-Month

Nature Month-by-Month is my first non-fiction book. When I was approached by Nosy Crow to write it, I wasn’t sure, which seems ridiculous now. I had been writing fiction for nearly twenty years and wasn’t convinced that I could write about facts – I was too used to making up stories. However, once I started researching the sorts of things that go into traditional almanacs, I realised that I was already interested in all of them, so why not write about them? As time went on, I began to wonder why I had not thought of writing a book like this years ago!

As soon as I started telling people that I was going to write an almanac they asked me, “What is an almanac exactly?” So that was my starting point. I thought it would be fun to begin the book by answering this question, plus I have always been fascinated by social history and the meanings and roots of words.

I started researching and discovered that the idea of an almanac is certainly not a new idea in publishing – in fact, the first almanacs were created about 3000 years ago! They were written by the Ancient Egyptians who wrote on paper made from reeds known as papyrus. The writers noted down all the dates that were thought to be lucky or unlucky and they made predictions about the weather. Farmers used these almanacs to help them know when to plant seeds and when to harvest crops. I then found out that the first “modern” almanac was published in 1792 in North America. It was called The Old Farmer’s Almanac and is still published every year. It is very much like the original Egyptian almanac, as it helps farmers predict the weather and decide when to plant and harvest.

Nowadays almanacs tend to include fun facts about each month – things to do indoors and outdoors, animals to spot, festivals to celebrate and seasonal food to grow, cook and eat. They also contain the traditional information about the weather, the tides, the night sky and clouds. I knew I needed to make my almanac a bit different from the traditional ones, which were mostly written for adult readers. But I also knew it was important to include the sorts of things almanacs always have, otherwise I would simply be writing an activity book. So I had great fun finding out about what vegetables and flowers to plant at different times of the year, how the moon effects planting, when is the best time to spot certain wildlife and how to recognise constellations in the night sky. All of these facts can be found in many almanacs for adults, but in my book I hope I have made the information accessible and appropriate for today’s children, some of whom may not have had much contact with Nature, due to the way we live our lives today.

I have always passionately believed in the power of Nature to heal and keep us sane. It has been instinctive for me to go for a walk, run or swim every day, not only to keep physically fit, but also to keep mentally healthy. If I am having a bad time, I pull on a pair of wellies and go outdoors and within minutes I am feeling happier – especially if I see three deer hiding in the long grass as I did this morning, or a kingfisher zipping along the surface of the river as I did the other day.

I have brought my children up to appreciate Nature too – they are young adults now, but when they were small we were out of the house every day by 10 o’clock in the morning, no matter what the weather was. It helped that we had a bouncy dog who needed walking too! Now my kids are older they know to get outside to clear their heads if they have been working too hard or if they are feeling low. I think that reconnecting with the seasons helps us to realise that we are part of something bigger than us – something awesome which we will never completely understand.

When it came to writing about how to get children connected with the Great Outdoors, I didn’t need to look far to find ideas, as I spent a great deal of my own childhood outside.

Once I started remembering all the things I loved to do in my own childhood I couldn’t stop writing. I lived in a small market town in Kent and all my close friends were within walking or cycling distance. In the holidays we would meet up on our bikes and come home only for meals. I also have lovely memories of time at my grandparents’ house where my grandmother taught me to cook and sew and how to make things. So it was not hard at all to come up with activities for outdoors, recipes and seasonal things to do on a rainy day.

Another thing that became important to me while researching the almanac was to write about the festivals in an inclusive way. This became particularly important once I discovered how many of the world’s big religious festivals have strong links with the seasons and the phases of the moon. It gave me a great feeling of hope that if the new generation can see how closely linked different cultures are through our links to Nature, we might have a chance of understanding one another better. So, for example, in the chapter on January 2019 I have written about New Year’s resolutions, Epiphany, Twelfth Night, Wassail, Lohri and Tu B’Shevat which are all festivals that celebrate looking forward to the year ahead and give thanks for good harvests and time with friends and family. I got a bit carried away in the first draft of this section as I was so excited to see the links that Nature provides between the different cultures and traditions. My editor had to politely suggest that I cut a couple of pages to allow Elly Jahnz, the illustrator, to have room for her gorgeous illustrations!

Writing Nature Month-by-Month was a complete joy. I learnt so much and in researching it became more convinced than ever that Nature holds all the answers to how to live a healthy and fulfilling life. If I had not had to keep it to 192 pages I would have crammed in so much more! Luckily I am now writing an almanac for 2020 so I have been able to include some information and recipes to do with festivals that I had to omit in the 2019 edition. I hope my readers enjoy reading the almanac as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you to Anna for this really insightful guest post.

A huge thank you to Chris Routh and FCBG for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy.  ‘2019 Nature Month-by-Month: Children’s Almanac,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.