Born to be wild;Children's books

19th March 1999 at 00:00
Natural history and wildlife books for younger children increasingly come in story form. The popularity of biography demonstrates that it's much easier to remember the facts of a person's life if you can empathise with them, and this also happens with animals and even plants, as in Eric Carle's wonderful The Tiny Seed (Picture Puffin, pound;4.99).

The Born Free Foundation wildlife books (TemplarRagged Bears, pound;4.99 each) have immediate appeal. They are true stories presented as narratives of animals' feelings, including Journey to Freedom - about a lion bought in Harrods and introduced back into the African bush - and The Elephant Truck.

Children have few problems identifying with large, impressive mammals such as elephants, lions and dolphins. The greater challenge, and just as crucial for conservation, is to win public sympathy for less romantic creatures.

Karen Wallace and Mike Bostock, who did a wonderful public relations job on the eel with Think of an Eel (a 1993 title from Walker which won both The TES Junior Information Book Award and the Kurt Maschler Award) have turned their attention to the giant octopus. Gentle Giant Octopus (Walker, pound;9.99), pictured left, transforms the creature's reputation from gruesome to awesome, through inventive, magical illustration and lyrical narrative, helping the reader to take in an impressive range of facts without effort.

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