A First Book of Animals

Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horacek

At a glance

  • Recommended for ages 0+
  • Shortlisted for Kate Greenaway Medal
  • Lots of details and facts on a variety of animals

This dazzling celebration of the animal world by zoologist and children’s author Nicola Davies is exquisitely illustrated by Petr Horacek. As a non-fiction book written in verse it’s both lyrical and highly readable. Petr Horacek’s captivating illustrations are a riot of colour and texture. They are incredibly atmospheric, many of them depicting animals in their natural setting. 

A First Book of Animals is a great way of introducing younger children to over 50 different varieties of animals. These range from the very familiar blue whale to the tiniest of creatures, the less well-known bumblebee bat. The selection of animals is refreshing, with more unusual animals such as white storks, sailfish and twinkling fireflies also being included. 

Animal species are introduced according to different criteria: their size, the homes they build, how they look after their babies. Davies’ verse flows smoothly, is packed with details and some staggering facts. Who knew that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetle? A handful of sketchbook-style double-page spreads provide fascinating explanations of animal groupings, defence mechanisms, parasites and the ways in which animals use tools.

This page-turner of a book is a bookshelf staple, ready to be shared again and again with younger children and very suitable for independent browsing by older readers.

Published by Walker Books

Reviewed by Jane Walker