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43 Book Review ANIMAL MAGIC


I’m currently gripped by Blue Planet II and in awe of David Attenborough. There’s so much to see, so much to learn and so much to explore in the natural world. Images of animals are all round us


T


during the festive season - robins, penguins, reindeers and polar bears - not forgetting our dear old friend from Peru. The bird most associated with Christmas must be the robin and in 2015 it was also voted the nation’s favourite bird. Fittingly, our redbreasted, feathered friend now has its own biography, The Robin, published by Square Peg and written by nature broadcaster, Stephen Moss. The book follows the life of the bird through from January to December and we are quick to learn that all is not as rosy as it might seem for this familiar garden bird, lovingly described as the “Ford Fiesta of the hedgerows.” It fights a continuous battle for life both over territory and food and often never makes it past its first birthday. The ornithological details in the book are embellished with anecdotal, historical and literary references, which alongside beautiful illustrations make this a highly readable book that is both a window on the bird world and a suitable gift for many. For those looking for a broader and


perhaps more humorous outlook on the natural world I would recommend The Unexpected Truth About Animals (published by Doubleday) and written by keen zoologist and founder member of the Sloth Appreciation Society, Lucy Cooke. Each chapter focuses on a different animal (beaver, hippopotamus, sloth to name a few) with the author revealing fascinating facts as well as the history and the myths that surround them. The writer incorporates her own well-informed observations to create a page-turner which “ is as surprising as it is diverse… consummate natural history writing: illuminating, remarkable and very, very, funny.” (Alice Roberts). If you are looking for theories on feminist hyenas, perverted penguins and exploding bats this is the place to go and it’s one of those handy books that you can dip in and out of as you see fit. An enchanting little book which no doubt will feature in many a stocking this Christmas is The Secret life of Cows by Rosamund Young and published by Faber & Faber. This is a compact and down-to- earth book, written by a respected farmer


he wonders of nature never cease to amaze me and like many other people


who has led a lifetime observing her own animals. This is a charming series of anecdotes and observations about her cows (who are all individually named), their characters and instincts and would undoubtedly appeal to anyone who has enjoyed a countryside wander and communed with a cow over a gate. Nowadays, there is the familiar recurring


argument that due to the growing attraction of electronic devices and the commercialisation of childhood, children are losing their connection with nature. The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (published by Hamish Hamilton) is an attempt to resolve this by re-engaging children with the magic of the nature and the joy of wild childhood, places and names. Spell poems incorporating ‘lost’ words like dandelion, otter and bramble are sumptuously illustrated with watercolours and gold leaf to emphasise the magic and naming of nature. This is an impressive picture book that stands out from the crowd and which would suit the coffee table as well as any children’s library. I’m finishing at the noisier end of the


children’s bookshelf where you can’t fail to notice David Walliams’ string of titles. Alongside his chart topping Bad Dad is his latest picture book Boogie Bear (published by Harper Collins) which is sure to please and entertain the younger members of any animal-loving family. Illustrated by perennial favourite Tony Ross this is an “outrageously funny story about a polar bear with a heartwarming message about celebrating difference in all its forms.”


Finally, and nothing to do with animals, is the new book from local author and this magazine’s Motoring correspondent, Nick Fletcher. The Long Sunset (published by Classic Books). A thriller featuring the return of the journalist-turned-detective Max Slater. Max takes on a cold case that has defeated the police – the brutal contract killing of an elderly woman in Dartmouth.By the time he discovers he is way of out his depth, it is too late to turn back. Available in bookshops, on-line or at www. nickfletcher.co.uk


by Emma Jones


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