Animal FACTopia by Julie Beer and Andy Smith

As a judge for the SLA Information Book Award and a librarian for a very long time, I am constantly being reminded of the changing face of information books.  This was re-inforced last weekend when I attended the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference.  One of the panels was discussing non-fiction and I was glad that one of the speakers  emphasized the fact that this type of book is not just about learning, it is also about ENJOYMENT.  That has become more noticeable in the range and style of book that we have been seeing emerge over the last decade or so.  I was delighted to be asked to take part in this blog tour because factual books tend to receive less attention than fiction, although I think this is gradually beginning to change.

The first thing to say is that this is a very bright, exuberant and attractive looking book and the size makes it very easy to handle and carry around.  The sub-title of the book tells us that it is a trail of 400 beastly facts covering a very wide range of creatures; it goes from bed bugs to whales and from dust mites to pygmy shrews an as we look at these creatures we follow the trail that links so many of their behaviours.  What we also have is a non-fiction version of the  write your own adventure stories; in this case we have dotted lines that lead us through the text, but then we are given the option to move backwards or forwards in the book, in order to get information that has a close link.

I particularly enjoy the combination of photographs and cartoons and as you can see from the images this is really suitable for Key stage 1 children and those less confident with their reading.  Whilst the text is short, it is also clear and the information is explained well.  One of the main element of this book is the brilliant sense of humour that flows throughout the book.  We have farting zebras, smelly opossums and my favourite the floating alligators;  this reminds me of a visit to a reserve in Florida where my son insisted that the alligator was a fake, only to find that it was very much alive several moments later.

Animal FACTOpia is the fourth in this series using this format.  It is one of these books that you could sit down and read from cover to cover, but I think I prefer the lucky dip approach, as just skimming through the book leads to the discovery of so many fascinating details.  For those who want to use this book as a research tool there is a somewhat unusual contents page, a very full index and a wide ranging list of organizations and online information.


Author: Julie Beer

Julie is an author and editor, who has written numerous children’s books on everything from national parks to space to her favourite subject of all – animals! Julie is based in California, USA.

Illustrator: Andy Smith

Andy is an award-winning illustrator, and studied illustration at the University of Brighton and the Royal College of Art, London. His work combines illustration and typography to create images that have humor, energy, and optimism executed with a handmade, hand-printed, tactile feel. He lives by the sea in Hastings, East Sussex, UK.