There are certain members of the animal kingdom that unfairly have a bad rep. They might be less cute and cuddly than some of the others, or be associated with something scary, which means children grow up wary of them.
The poor old bat falls into this category but the world’s only flying mammals are incredibly important to the environment, not to mention the unique and interesting ways in which they fly, communicate and sleep.
Thankfully, award-winning designer and writer Charlotte Milner is on a mission to change our perception with her latest work, The Bat Book. Aimed at children aged five and older, it combines bold and engrossing illustrations with easy to digest facts.
It is the third title in her series of books highlighting important ecological issues to a young audience. The Bee Book was shortlisted for AOI’s World Illustration Awards after it was published in 2018, which last year’sThe Sea Bookwon a Junior Design Awards Silver Award for Best Children’s Book 5+.
To celebrate the publication of her newest title, we joined The Bat Book blog tour and asked Charlotte to share her favourite five children’s books about nature…
A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld. £12.99 (paperback), Walker
A beautiful poetry book and a favourite on my bookshelf. I find Mark Hearld’s collages so inspiring and the colours he uses really bring the different seasons to life. Nicola Davies is also a nature writer that I admire and her poems in this book introduce the natural world to children as something really magical. Available from Amazon
Through the Animal Kingdom by Derek Harvey and Charlotte Pepper. £9.99 (hardback), DK Children
Reading this book reminds me of sitting down to watch a David Attenborough documentary as all of the animal information in it is presented as different stories to follow. With a mixture of narrative and non-fiction running throughout it, I think children will be really gripped as they track the journeys of different animals as they migrate and find food across different habitats. Available from Amazon
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Sabina Radeva. £12.99 (hardback), Puffin
I think this is a fantastic example of children’s non-fiction because it presents a complex topic – Darwin’s theory of evolution – and makes it simple for children to understand. I’m very much a visual learner and believe that even some of the most tricky subjects can be made approachable and fun to learn when information is broken down and explained through colourful illustrations and diagrams. I love the illustrations in the book and I’m always intrigued to learn about how animals species develop and change over thousands of years to adapt to their environment. Available from Amazon
A Flower Fairies Treasury by Cicely Mary Barker.
Perhaps not an obvious choice as a nature book, but I wanted to include a memorable book from my childhood. I grew up in the countryside of South Wales and have a lot of memories of playing by the River Usk and going on long walks in Wentwood Forest. Being outside was a big part of growing up and these nature walks were made even more magical by believing in fairies that lived amongst flowers and bears that were hiding in the woods.
I would look at the different plants in this book and go looking for them in the garden to find where the fairies were living. I used to love copying the floral illustrations in the book, and in my search for fairies, I’d learn about different types of flower. I think fantasy is a great way to get children feeling excited by nature and the outdoors.
The Book of Bees by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski. £18.95 (hardback), Thames & Hudson
Since writing The Bee Book I have built up quite the collection of all things bee related (I believe this is not usual behaviour for beekeepers and other bee enthusiasts alike!). Books about bees are an important part of my collection that includes jewellery, cushions and stationary, and this one is my favourite.
The illustrations are beautiful and I love how the structured layouts give a hint of the same style as the old lithograph animal and plant studies. My favourite page is about urban beekeeping. The skinny towering houses with oversized beekeepers looking after their beehives on the small roofs reminds me, as a city dweller, of the challenge of finding a spot of nature in the city. Available from Amazon
The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner is out now. £12.99 (hardback), DK Children. Available from Amazon
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