The Australian Animal Atlas by Leonard Cronin

cover image

Ill. by Marion Westmacott. Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760294144
(Ages: 5-12) Recommended. Australian animals. This is a revised and updated edition of a 1995 Envirobook publication by the same author and illustrator. The illustrations are detailed and realistic and the author, with a background in biology, presents well-researched information regarding animal behaviour and physiology. The structure of the book is faultless and multi-layered and the contents and index pages are uncluttered and easy to navigate. The animals are organised into the habitats (e.g., deserts) in which they are found and the contents page lists these eleven habitats. Indexing is by common grouping (e.g., insects, kangaroos) as well as by full name (e.g., Bull Ant, Agile Wallaby). Each of the eleven sections contain a map showing the area/s of Australia that habitat can be found as well as a brief description and illustration of that particular habitat. The animals of that habitat (sixteen for each) are depicted both within the illustration and again within the border (labelled). Younger children will especially enjoy searching for each animal within these habitat scenes. On the following page is yet another illustration of each animal, this time including information regarding their unique behaviours and abilities. It is a credit to the publication that the illustrations are not just duplicated; many of them are different. Because the number of animals included is not exhaustive the information given is quite comprehensive for a book of this kind (not just a couple of interesting or little known titbits), with 3-5 thorough sentences for each. Westmacott's detailed and life-like illustrations bring the creatures to life.
An illustrated guide such as this is great for visual learners and allows children to read about an animal and then connect that new knowledge to the animal's appearance (e.g., to both read about and see the spade-like feet of the water-holding frog). As illustrated in the aforementioned example the descriptive language used is visual and appropriate for a young audience. The monikers (e.g., night terror, flying poison) given to each animal will draw children, including reluctant readers, into the text and encourage them to read on. The layout is easy on the eye and not text heavy; there is lots of white space and the illustrations take centre stage. The text gives each animal's scientific name as well as its body measurements.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and educational read, both for general perusal, habitat investigations and animal research.
Nicole Nelson