Bookshelf Information

Crazy About Cats


There are so many wonderful books around that sometimes we miss reviewing something that we really love or have enjoyed using with children. Meeting Owen Davey at Hay earlier this year reminded me just how much I love his books and his style of illustration. ‘Crazy About Cats’- could have been written to describe me- is my favourite of his books to date and is a wonderful text to use to support the Year 6 Science Curriculum ( living things, evolution etc)- or purely for pleasure!


Although I am a fan of photographs in non-fiction books, there is something very appealing about Owen’s stunning illustrations and their beauty which negates this concern completely. The book begins with exploring the genus of cats, number of species and general diet and habitat of these amazing creatures before considering their evolution and the domesticity of the house cat. This could form the perfect starting point for work on classification, using examples before working scientifically and classifying creatures they might find closer to home. (Bonkers About Beetles might come in handy here!)


The diversity of cats in this book is wonderful, making the perfect starting point for further investigation, allowing children to compare and contrast how different cats species have adapted to their environments. The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) caught my imagination - I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of it; I now know where it comes from and that it is the only species classified as ‘pardofelis’, having previously been thought to belong to the panthera lineage. Another species which leapt off the page at me was the ‘margay’ which is a featured creature in the book. Sadly. both of these wonderful creatures are considered to be ‘near threatened’.


‘Crazy About Cats’ is packed full of fascinating, clear information, but I also love the fact that there is a section about cat mythology, touching on some of the stories told about cats through the ages. There are many writing opportunities which might come from this book as well- reports, persuasive, discussion as well as narrative.

The contents and index make it easy to navigate, but this is really one of those books that is best lingered over as something catches the eye. The book ends with information about the endangered status of many of our big cats and suggestions for how we can help.

Beautiful in content as well as quality, ‘Crazy About Cats’ is a fabulous book about felines which will captive and educate in equal measure.

Crazy About Cats Owen Davey

Flying Eye Books ISBN: 978-1911171164

Planning ideas for this book will be added to the Members’ Section of the website very soon.

A Million Dots


Starting with a single tree, ‘A Million Dots’ introduces the number one. Simple and uncluttered, it stands proudly alone, but turning the page sees this doubled to two trees. Next, four red apples stand out against their green leaves. As the trees turn brown, eight red apples lie on the ground. On each spread, the numbers double until the reader sees 1,048,576 dots in the final six page pull-out.


On the left hand page, the number in digits is clearly written whilst at the top of the opposite page the answer is written in words above its dotted representation. This is itself offers much potential for discussion about how we record numbers (both in digits and words), number patterns, doubling, repeated addition, etc, but the simple graphic illustration which accompanies each number offers so much more.


Children are fascinated by big numbers and when I presented them with this book, they instantly wanted to check that the sum was correct - and then count the number of dots! With the lower numbers, this was easy, but it soon led to conversations about finding shortcuts and using what they know about number to help them. The pictures where the majority of dots are arranged into rectangles allowed them to count columns and rows whereas the scattered pictures produced different challenges. Were there 2,048 stars reflected in the ocean the boat sails on? Was the moon-and its reflection- included in the total count? The quality of mathematical language and thinking, however, was amazing to listen to. There were, of course, those who just wanted to believe all the dots were there and just enjoy the concept and artwork!


The choice of image also provoked discussion. Are the 64 dots Smarties tumbling from a tube? Confetti from a party popper? Is that the pink tail of the mouse curled round the edge of the page opposite? How many pages would a picture containing 2,097,152 dots need? How small would those dots need to be? The effect of the dots as they got smaller and closer together also led to discussions about pointillism and the work of artists like Georges Seurat.

Simple, yet stunning, ‘A Million Dots’ is a great book for exploring and discussing numbers wherever you are!

A Million Dots Sven Völker

Cicada Books ISBN: 978-1908714664



Beautifully balancing fact and fiction, ‘Hummingbird’ focuses on the ruby-throated hummingbird. The story starts with a grandmother and her granddaughter waiting in their garden for the ‘Tz-unun’ or ‘zun-zun’ (the name for hummingbirds in several Central and South American countries) to arrive and feed. Like the little girl, Granny says they will soon be flying north. The reader then follows these incredible little birds on their migration until they arrive in New York where the little girl finds part of their egg shell. She then completes the cycle by sending this to her grandmother with a cutting from the newspaper about hummingbirds nesting in Central Park for the first time.


Produced in association with the RSPB, the story is supplemented with factual notes about various aspects of the ruby-throated hummingbird’s life. An index is included to enable readers to locate this information with ease and a bibliography of further reading is also suggested. Additional notes about these incredible creatures at the beginning and end of the book offer information about how scientists study them. It is truly fascinating!


The story also reminds us all of the importance of nature as the beauty of these birds captures the attention and interest of many on their journey, spreading the joy of nature as they go. A student forgets his work for a moment as he shares the beauty of the hummingbird with his mother; a family forget the normal distractions of daily life as they share the joy of hummingbirds visiting their homemade feeder. The story offers a sense of love - of human to human as well as for nature.


Jane Ray’s illustrations are as beautiful as ever. Rich colours and delicate detail bring each scene to life, celebrating the beauty of these birds and the world we live in. She also captures those human relationships- the grandmother and her granddaughter nestled together, the sisters enjoying a special memory, an elderly man and his younger companion sharing a walk in the park with a dog- each of these relationships speaks volumes through her beautiful paintings.

A stunning book about these fascinating birds, ‘Hummingbird’ is a treasure of a book which has great potential for using in school as well as being enjoyed by those wanting to discover more. Just beautiful.

Hummingbird Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406379273