Nicola Davies

Hummingbird

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

The Little Mistake

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When her sheepdog has puppies, Rosie is so excited. However, things do not turn out as expected; Trixie’s puppies are still born, except for one- a big fluffy pup which does not resemble a collie at all. Looking and behaving differently, the puppy is considered ‘a little mistake’, something Rosie has heard her parents refer to her as. But Puppy teaches everyone that being an individual is a wonderful thing and that not all mistakes are bad!

This is such a lovely little story. Farm life makes the perfect backdrop and the setting is beautifully described with a deep love of the countryside and nature shining through. The importance of Trixie’s puppies being champion sheep dogs and the disappointment of the pup being ‘a mistake’ is clear and makes Rosie’s determination to raise him and train him all the more poignant. The fact that Puppy is too friendly and looks too much like one of the sheep to be an effective sheep dog reinforces the fact that he is a ‘mistake’, yet it is these qualities which enable him to become a ‘hero’ in the end.

Rosie’s worry about the comment she overheard her mother making about Rosie being ‘their little mistake’ is also resolved at the end of the story as the situation with Puppy offers them the opportunity to talk.

“Sometimes the things you don’t plan are the nest of all!”

Nicola Davies’s rich language and sweet story are perfectly complemented by Cathy Fisher’s beautiful drawings; the picture of Puppy and his other lying together is so sweet! Short and achievable, this book is one of a series of stories set in the countryside, perfect for engaging reluctant readers and book-lovers alike!

The Little Mistake Nicola Davies, illustrated by Cathy Fisher

Graffeg ISBN: 978-1912654086


A First Book of the Sea

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This is a beautiful book. Words and images mingle, creating memorable scenes full of colour and life. Gathered into four sections, there are poems and thoughts about many aspects of the sea- its beauty, the pleasure it offers, the life it holds and the human connection to it. There are poems here which will resonate with everyone.

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The first section of poems is entitled 'Down by the Shore'. Here there are poems about the beach, finding pebbles and shells, paddling, making sandcastles... The final poem in this group is 'All Day', a celebration of really looking at and listening to the sea in action as it makes contact with the shore. The picture shows a beach edged with more tropical vegetation than I am used to on my local beaches, but the sights and sounds described are so familiar that any child on any beach anywhere would recognise them. It would be lovely for those of us lucky enough to teach near to the sea to take photos of children like those in the picture and for children to develop their own poems and paintings based on these once back in the classroom.

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The next section is called 'Journeys'  and looks at the movement of both humans and creatures across the oceans. There is much to enjoy here- and much to learn! Do you know about the Sargasso sea or know what an elver is? You can find out in poems here! 'Lord Beaufort's Scale' effortlessly explains the wind force scale, conveying its importance to those on the seas. 

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'Under the Sea' contains poems concerning the negative impact man can have on the oceans. Although this has been touched on in previous poems- 'the man whirls his net...to catch just enough fish for dinner.' (Fishing for Dinner), the writing here clearly spells out some of the negatives; 'Bottom Trawling' and 'Deadliest of All' bear witness to the damage humans are wreaking on the watery world. However, there are also poems in this section that revel in the mysteries of the deep, bringing its marvels to life.

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The final section explores the wonders of the sea. Here you can learn to sing like a humpback whale, marvel at minute plankton, meet manta rays and flying fish. So much to wonder about and to wonder at in these pages.

There is a richness of vocabulary used in these poems which makes them a pleasure to read. The illustrations are fabulous, each worth lingering over and enjoying again and again. 'A First Book of the Sea' is an essential for classrooms and libraries as well as for enjoying at home! All round winner!

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

Walker    ISBN: 978-1406368956