by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Davies employs her considerable zoological chops in service to very young children in this ingenious, elegant and especially attractive lift-the-flap matching-game. The author introduces a series of five habitats (warm, steamy jungle; still, cool pond; dry, sunny grassland; warm, clear, salty ocean; and snowy, frozen Arctic) in two two-page spreads. In the first spread, on the left is the habitat itself, with various forms of wildlife hidden about, and on the right are four quadrants, each with a flap decorated with an abstracted image representing a different habitat. Lifting each flap reveals a different animal who says where it lives, with the final (bottom right) flap exposing one animal who lives in the habitat in question. The subsequent spread shows an expanded image of the habitat, with clearer views of its many inhabitants and a few details about the one animal hidden beneath the flap on the previous page. A final spread identifies all 20 animals and invites us to match them, using their background colors as a guide.
Boutavant’s deliciously cute images, with big eyes and softened, rounded edges, recall an earlier age of children’s book illustration. Indeed, they would look right at home in the 1950s. But beyond their obvious appeal to the target audience (and to me), they conform to careful and deliberate book design pattern, adding lots of value to the entire outing. For example:
- Each of the flaps attaches on a different axis, the first at the bottom, the second on the left, the third on the right, and the fourth at the top.
- Each habitat image hides four animals. One of them appears under the matching habitat flap on the next page. The other three appear under the flaps for that habitat on the other pages.
- The flaps are affixed to quadrants of contrasting colors, and the color behind the “correct” flap matches the background color of the particular habitat.
- Text on the back of each flap offers further information about the habitat it represents and the particular animal beneath it.
And all of this pattern means that there’s lots and lots to learn from a book like this. Wildlife ecology is just the beginning. For here are lessons about how books work, and what we can and should look for as we consume them. In lots of ways, this is a book about books and reading as much as it is a book about habitat.
I love it up.