Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Look. See. Wonder.

No single day passes without observations of creatures in the wild.  It can be as normal as birds flying from one place to the next or as surprising as looking out your window and seeing the local fox trotting down the neighborhood sidewalk at dusk.  We see them.  We hear them.  And, in the case of skunks, we smell them, hopefully prior to an encounter.  Regardless of the number of times we experience these sights, sounds and smells it still is, and should be regarded as, a miracle.

We are most fortunate to be sharing this planet with beings who have adapted as best as possible to the changes made in their habitats.  Wild Animals Of The North (Flying Eye Books, June 7, 2016 [April 1, 2016 UK]) written and illustrated by Dieter Braun is a stunning visual presentation of eighty animals.  Within the one hundred forty pages of this title three regions of the north are visited; North America, Europe and Asia.

Wild Animals of the North
It's hard to imagine that fantastic creatures like bald eagles or snow leopards could have evolved from the first single-celled organisms that appeared on Earth around 3.5 billion years ago.  

With this opening sentence in the introduction we marvel at the growth and diversity found in the animal kingdom.  As we read further we are reminded of the precariousness of their habitats.  We are invited to increase our appreciation of these magnificent animals.  

We begin our exploration with the puma.  Their agility and skill at standing jumps are astounding.  We soar next with the bald eagle.  Did you know they add to their nest every year increasing it in size?  We hunt salmon with the Kodiak bear, climb to new heights with a mountain goat and dive with orcas.  Their communication techniques vary from family to family.

The coloration for the the Blue-footed booby is disclosed.  You might want to think twice before getting near a Texas rattlesnake; their size and venom are larger than you might imagine.  You'll never guess who binge eats before winter. (Hint: Mask)

Traveling to Europe we discover the range of dietary delicacies enjoyed by a red fox.  Like several other animals within this book, barn owls mate for life.  In a hospitable moment badgers might be likely to allow other animals to share one of their vacant cubbies in a barrow.  Six thousand spikes?! Yes, as an adult, a hedgehog can have that number of spikes.

You will never guess that the fastest bird also has the most extensive habitat, being found everywhere except for Antarctica.  Roe deer and the red deer are at opposite ends of the size spectrum.  The northern bald ibis enjoys a very distinctive mating ritual of bowing.  

To the east we go to meet the elusive snow leopard called the ghost of the mountain by the native population.  Its tail is used for balance and warmth.  The bitter cold is combated by the Japanese macaque by enjoying the benefits of hot springs. There is actually a deer, musk deer, with teeth looking vaguely like Dracula in feast mode.

The Przewalski's Horse is indeed a rare equine; the only truly wild one on our planet.  Did you know there are birds that capture food, fish, by forming a horseshoe shape?  While you might know about a camel's ability to go without water, you won't believe what they do when dust becomes a problem.  As you get farther into the book journeying from North America to Asia, your respect will increase as well as your humility.  

Of the eighty animals featured by Dieter Braun the scientific name is given for all of them; forty are selected to provide further information for readers.  Woven into conversational paragraphs are a variety of facts.  Braun has chosen items of information of interest to a wide range of readers but easily understood by those that are younger.  Here is a sample passage for White Stork//Ciconia ciconia

When two storks meet, a typical ritual for them is to clatter their beaks together.  Storks' voices are so weak that this is the way they communicate with one another, and it is also how they have earned the nickname 'rattle stork'.  It is said that the white stork delivers babies.  According to legend it brings them in bundles to human mothers or lets them slide down the chimney.  This story might have come from the habit of storks nesting on chimneys and roofs to incubate their own offspring.  They like to keep close to human settlements so they can always find food nearby. 

The striking facial image of a wolf on the front of the book case captivates.  The light and dark hues and the precise geometrical layers create a sense of anticipation and animation.  To the left, on the back, Dieter Braun has created a circular shape consisting of some of the animals.  It's a tribute to the assortment of wonder animals bring to all of us.  

Preceding the three sections we are shown a map of the world; each division contains a map with several animals placed within it. The heavy, matte-finished paper is an excellent canvas for the images.  We are never quite sure but more than eager to see what each page turn will bring.  

Braun might give us a close-up side view of the animal along with it active in its habitat.  These could be two separate pictures or super-imposed one on the other.  Sometimes the animal will be looking directly at the reader.  In breathtaking displays two pages are used for a single creature.

Perspectives welcome us into each animal's world; for the chipmunk we seeing it scampering off the page but we also see it with cheeks bulging with peanuts.  Seasons and time of day are varied so we get a true sense of place as we travel.  In many of the images a mirror reflection is beneath the animal adding more dimension.  

Choosing a favorite illustration is nearly impossible.  So I will pick two to share with you.  In the first done in shades of brown, cream and very pale yellow a roe deer fawn lies curled in tall grass.  The grass is vertically layered around the deer.  The tops of the grass look like stalks of wheat.  They are beautiful on a background of rich, warm brown.  In the second picture it's raining.  We are close to a fire salamander.  The salamander is on a rock as water splashes around him.  He is facing us looking calm and content. The muted hues of the rock, ground, sky and rain make the colors on the salamander pop right off the page.

  Wild Animals Of The North written and illustrated by Dieter Braun is an eloquent presentation; a masterful example of bookmaking.   It is visually breathtaking, an art gallery in your hands.  You will gasp at the beauty.  There are no source notes or a bibliography included but I verified nearly every single fact.  This volume is going to be enjoyed by readers.  I would plan on more than one copy.  

To learn more about Dieter Braun and his other work please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  In an article at The Guardian Children's Books there is a visual presentation of eight pages including two of my favorites.  Fine Fine Books gives a sneak peek at pages from his next book, a companion title.

Be sure to stop at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see the other titles features by bloggers participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge this week. 


  1. I haven't seen the book, of course, but the cover looks just a bit reminiscent of Steve Jenkins' work.

  2. Hello Michele~ It is similar to Steven Jenkins' artwork but more geometric. It's definitely a distinctive style. There is a larger use of light and shadow. By using the more textured, heavier paper the effect is completely different. The author/illustrator is, I believe, German and I was unable to locate any information on the medium or technique he employs.

  3. I love the style of the cover! I am intrigued, and cannot wait to see the text.

  4. You are really going to enjoy this book Kellee. The illustrations are wonderful. I verified every single fact including the scientific names as best as I could. It's tribute to the animal kingdom.