A-Z of Australian animals by Jennifer Cossins

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Lothian, 2018. ISBN 9780734418586
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Cossins is a Tasmanian author and artist with a passion for all things animal. Her previous titles, all published within the last few years, include 101 Collective Nouns and The Baby Animal Book. This title uses her signature illustrative style and is formatted and organised in the same way as her previous book A-Z of Endangered Animals. It includes a contents page listed by alphabet letter rather than page number (e.g., A-Azure Kingfisher) which is great for helping young children understand alphabet sequence. It contains many well-known native Aussie animals (koala, platypus, wombat, etc.) as well as many that children may not have heard of (imperial jezebel, variegated fairy-wren, etc.). There is a lovely two-page introduction (probably more suited to adult readers than children) that explains Australia's native fauna and her choices for inclusion. Each animal is given two pages (one with text and one illustration of the animal). The illustrations are shiny, realistic representations of each animal without much background except to give a basic indication of their habitat. The information on the opposite page includes scientific name, height or length, three paragraphs detailing the animal's unique features, behaviours and habitat and one interesting fact. The book as a whole is probably too long for children to take in during a single sitting but is definitely one they will like dipping in and out of or could be used as a reference book. It is not a comprehensive compendium of Australian animals, nor does it comprehensively cover the 26 animals it features. However, it is visually appealing (especially because it is minimal) and beautifully written with plain but not simplified English. It doesn't shy away from using big words or technical language (monogamous, incubate, etc.), nor does it feel the need to explain them all, and is all the richer for it. This also means it will resonate with a very wide audience, from the very young to adult. The illustrations (for those not familiar with Cossins' work) lie very flat on the page but use line and colour to create texture and intricate detail.
Nicole Smith-Forrest