Bookshelf Information

Atlas of Amazing Birds


In his introduction, Matt Sewell describes this book as ‘my personal selection of the most amazing birds in the world’- and it is absolutely fascinating. Grouped by continent, each section starts with a map and a section of information about the location. The introduction makes it clear that the illustrations are not always to scale, but the dimensions are given so the reader can get an idea of the actual size.


The text is beautifully written, using challenging vocabulary and the personal nature of the selection really comes through in the way Matt describes each bird. The Western Barn Owl is described as ‘captivating for its ghostly ethereal beauty and big black eyes, as deep as the darkest night.’ His passion for birds shines through as he shares his knowledge and observations.


Each entry includes the bird’s Latin name and the illustrations are enchanting - colourful and quirky- really celebrating birds from around the world. Even the endpapers are beautiful! A small glossary and some suggested listening of songs featuring birds is included at the end. This is a fascinating book which will keep young ornithologists happy for hours!

Atlas of Amazing Birds Matt Sewell

Pavilion ISBN: 978-1843654063

You can read our review of The Big Bird Spot here.

Wild Lives


‘Wild Lives’ is a wonderful book which celebrates fifty remarkable animals from around the world, telling their exceptional stories. Each is a powerful tale. many full of courage and love, and each is a joy to read. The range of animals whose stories form part of this collection is quite incredible, reminding the reader of just how extraordinary animals can be.


The adventures of two special felines are recorded here- Bob, the street cat who became very famous, and Simon, a cat who made his home on a warship. Dogs also feature- Greyfriars Bobby and Sergeant Stubby stories are perhaps better known, but the reader can also find out about Pickles who discovered the World Cup after it had been stolen, earning the gratitude of the England team who won it four months later! Balto (a husky from Alaska) also earns a place in the book for being the lead dog in a team transporting essential medication through howling gales and blizzards which saved the lives of ill children.


But it’s not just dogs and cats who are celebrated here. Huberta (a hippo), Sam (a koala), Lin Wang (an elephant) and Moko (a dolphin) are just a few of the other creatures represented. The book is organised into different categories- Rescue and Protect, Adventure and Explore, Change and Solve, Discover and Pioneer and Inspire and Influence- and offers a comprehensive glossary and index, making it easy to locate specific information or to simply enjoy browsing. There is also a map of the world, showing where each creature was born.


Published in the same format as JAB favourite, ‘HerStory’, ‘Wild Lives’ is a beautifully produced book, full of lovely illustrations, but also including photographs, documents and quotes. It is a fascinating collection, perfect for inspiring young readers.

Wild Lives Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-1788005098


You can read our review of ‘HerStory’ here.

How to be Extraordinary


Containing biographies of fifteen extraordinary people from around the world, ‘How To Be Extraordinary’ is a joyous celebration of the many ways there are to be extraordinary! Bursting with colour, the vibrant illustrations are very appealing and the short sections of text make an achievable read.


There is something very appealing about the selection of stories chosen for this collection. Some are fairly familiar faces, rightly celebrated for their achievements- Nelson Mandela and Frida Kahlo for example. I was delighted to see the wonderful Judith Kerr included, not only as an author/ illustrator, but also as a refugee. The entry is written in the present tense, obviously written before her sad dead earlier this year. However, many of the fifteen are less well known and make for fascinating reading.


Polish born Krystyna Skarbek was Britain’s first female spy. The entry recalls her bravery and quick thinking, but also the appalling lack of recognition she received for her efforts afterwards. Aeham Ahmad- the pianist of Yarmouk- is extraordinary for his love of music and his desire to use this to bring hope and joy to Syrian civilians during the civil war. the extraordinary stories of both men and women, from the past and present, are celebrated in this extraordinary book.

How To Be Extraordinary Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Annabel Tempest

Puffin ISBN: 978-0241385401