The Amazing Animal Adventure

posted in: Anna Claybourne, Brendan Kearney | 8

amazinganimaladventureThe Amazing Animal Adventure written by Anna Claybourne (@AnnaClaybourne) and illustrated by Brendan Kearney (@brendandraws) is a new and worthy addition to the burgeoning, starry ranks of highly illustrated, beautiful non-fiction books for children, aimed at least as much for the home market, as for schools and libraries. An atlas-cum-animal-gazetteer which encourages close observation skills whilst you hunt for a variety of different animals in varying habitats around the world, this out-sized book mixes curious facts with clear and simple descriptions, letting the large, detailed illustrations lure you into hours pouring over its pages.

Come and discover why there’s a section dedicated to the mountains of the moon (yes, really!), learn where to find the only freshwater seals in the world, and seek out those curious animals (other than humans) who have fun making snowballs. In doing so you’ll travel the world, learning how geography influences climate and habitat, and how that in turn influences the sorts of animals you’ll come face to face with.

Interestingly, only the illustrator’s name appears on the front cover The Amazing Animal Adventure. It’s true; the illustrations really sell the book, mixing something of the classic Stephen Cartwright look (the fine black lines), with the quirkiness of Satoshi Kitamura (the arresting, stylised eyes of all the creatures, working very effectively to bring focus and connection to the animals in each spread). Whilst the earthy tones of the illustrations appealed greatly to all of us here at Playing by the Book, I do wonder if there will be a spin off colouring-in version of this book; the illustrations would lend themselves very well to this.

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Although seductive to look at, it’s also important to consider whether the book’s factual accuracy matches the attention to detail lavished on its appearance. Some details in the opening habitat map aside (the Eritrean highlands and the Rockies are not mapped as mountainous, whilst the high plateaus of South Africa are put on a par with the Himalayas and Andes) and the mix-up of a Malaysian Tapir (with a white saddle) for a South American Tapir (without a white saddle), I was delighted to find that even the most surprising facts I checked all came good – sadly, not something I can always rely on in non-fiction books where the visual wow-factor is so important.

A few editorial decisions didn’t work for me: Occasionally the text lacked commentary I felt would have been justified (why could it be that tigers in the Sundarbans “have become quite keen on eating humans” and what consequences are there of collecting cave swiftlet nests for soup? Do we perhaps owe young readers some discussion of the impact humans have on animal habitats?). In several places the text describes animals behaving in a particular way but this isn’t matched in the illustrations, and the use of “lady” instead of “female” when talking about differences with male animals seemed jarringly old-fashioned. We were also frustrated at one or two points by spotting animals in the illustration which were not identified anywhere in the text, for example the crabs in the cave habitat or the anemones (?) in the Antarctic spread.

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But our observation of these minutia is really a reflection of how much we enjoyed this book and how much time we’ve spent with it. We’ve been engaged and enthused by The Amazing Animal Adventure, enjoying the bonus material (a key to the animal searches, a list of world records, an introduction to animal classification) as well as the main body of the book. It’s also worth commenting on the price of this book: Lots of the new wave eye-catching children’s non-fiction is quite expensive, retailing around £20, so it is notable that this beautiful book, which still feels and looks good enough to also qualify as a gift as well as an enjoyable activity and reference book retails at the cheaper price of £14.95.

Using the glorious spreads in The Amazing Animal Adventure as our inspiration we set about recreating our own animal habitats, with playmobil, plastic animals and sand / mud / stones scavenged from the garden.

Suddenly we had an African savannah in our kitchen!

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Next we were off to the Amazon rainforest…

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…with one or two further stops on the way before finally ending up on the Galapagos Islands.

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It’s not a bad day when you can bring the world into your home!

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Whilst we made our habitats we listened to:

  • Animal Habitats by Jack Hartmann
  • Have to Have a Habitat by Dana Lyons and John Seed
  • All Around the World by Ralph’s World


  • Other activities which might work well alongside readingThe Amazing Animal Adventure include:

  • Creating some wildlife friendly habitats in your back garden, for example, with a bug hotel
  • Visiting a local zoo or aquarium and paying special attention to what they’ve done to recreate the habitat preferred by the animals they have on display
  • Exploring animals around the world on the World Wildlife Fund’s pages for kids

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, Laurence King.

    8 Responses

    1. Malaysian tapir in the Amazon! Bambang *has* run and swum a long way… Goodness that’s quite a jarring error although it IS wonderful to see a tapir centre stage.
      Love your world on a table.

    2. Simone Fraser

      The tapir has not had its time as a high-profile animal. Golly, I am appalled at my own ignorance; I thought the tapir was an African native. Personally, I am pleased the Great Barrier Reef is featured. (Yes, I’m Australian… = D). The playing time looks glorious, as usual.

      • Don’ know if they are available in Australia Simone, but there’s a really delightful series of books for newly fluent readers – highly illustrated and very funny, called Mango and Bambang, featuring a girl and her best friend, a tapir. I definitely suggest you seek them out 🙂

    3. We have been talking about different habitats this week which led me to wonder which book I could use to support and extend learning. Your habitats look amazing, I’ll definitely look out for this book.
      Catherine recently posted..Zog and the Flying Doctors by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

      • The girls enjoyed making those habitats so much Catherine. Of course it helps we have rather a lot of plastic animals… 😉

    4. What a beautiful book – can ‘feel’ it in my hands just from the pictures. Love how you checked all the facts, and the activity you did – reminds me of the 1960s cardboard zoo we made! http://thequirkyparent.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/thinking-inside-box-make-cardboard-zoo.html
      Claire Potter recently posted..Rrrrip-roaring fun: Make an altered book

    5. I think that it’s great you’re getting your kids to question what doesn’t quite work as well as what does. I’m not 100% keen on the illustrations of this book, but that being said, often you need to see the pictures “in the flesh” rather than just looking at photos to get a proper idea of them. Great to get that website link too – I am always on the hunt for fun, meaningful activities for my lot online.
      Rebecca Stonehill recently posted..Novel Number Three: The cave men and women from the 1960’s

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