“Everywhere you look, there are living things.” So we learn in this latest offering from a talented author-illustrator team from Great Britain. It’s not easy to translate complex biological principles and concepts into a picture book, but Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton manage to do just that. Their previous collaboration, Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, explored unseen organisms. Here, Sutton’s jubilant watercolors bring a classic, almost retro look to Davies’ simple, yet informative text about biological diversity.
One unnamed young girl appears in many of the illustrators. There’s a fanciful aspect to design, as our young guide appears in diverse settings and landscapes, sometimes as an observer, other times as a teacher, collector or investigator, complete with safari hat, notebook and pen. (The scene with the girl before a table of mushrooms of all colors and shapes is marvelous!)
The presence of a human in many of the landscapes also underscores an important message of this book. While new species may be found each year, extinction is a reality. In one scene, we find our human girl before a museum case full of extinct specimens. “We have learned that ever kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complication pattern,” Davies writes. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern.”
Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth is especially appropriate for young children and offers numerous possibilities for learning about colorful plants and animals. And while a bibliography and information on environmental activism would have added to its usefulness in a classroom setting, it is sure to be enjoyed by nature lovers of all ages.