Wild animals of the south by Dieter Braun

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Flying Eye Books, 2017. ISBN 9781909263970
(Ages: 5+) Australian animals. African animals. South American animals. Antarctic animals. This is a translated edition of a German publication, with a second book, Wild animals of the north, also available. There are many of these artsy, illustration-based non-fiction books around for children and lots of them are extraordinary in terms of their visual appeal as well as their ability to engage young readers, many of whom are becoming more discerning about the aesthetic qualities of their reading material as well as shying away from text-heavy books. This one is organised into four regions: South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. In keeping with the visual focus, the contents are graphical (using a map) and the index, organised by region, is pictorial (confusingly not ordered alphabetically).
The introduction sets a conservationist tone for the reader as it draws attention to the many species of animal currently threatened with extinction. It opines 'We are intruders in the animal kingdom and with every animal that dies out, our life on this planet loses a part of its power and colour and beauty'. This is a wonderfully written statement with the power and clarity to resonate with adults and children alike. The author, by providing breath-taking illustrations that display their beauty and immenseness, emphasises that wild animals need to be respected and protected. The illustrations are not completely realistic, but they are scientifically accurate and incredibly detailed. The colours are bright and vibrant, but not always true to life. Many of the animals, composed of layered geometrical shapes, appear to pop off the page, piercing you with their intense eyes.
This is a book to appreciate visually but is in no way a reference or research book. Despite the introduction telling us, 'this book... tells us how and where they live, what they look like, what they eat, how they find each other or hide from one another and all the other things they get up to' the illustrations really are the main event and they deserve to be. Scientific names are given alongside common names but aside from this inclusion (which is probably done to give an exotic feel rather than for educational purpose) minimal and sometimes no information is given about the included animals. What information is given is limited in scope and often pertains to one aspect (e.g. the kookaburra's laugh). In addition, it is far from comprehensive; it includes only eighteen Australian animals and a mere eight from the Antarctic region. While clearly not intended as a reference book, it seems odd that information is not given for each animal. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful book of art sure to be treasured by animal lovers and young artists.
Nicole Nelson