Firstly want to share a link to BrizzyMay’s last Gaia/nature challenge post, super impressed with May’s achievements and not just the reading ones, but all the practical things to help the environment. All any of us can do is make those little improvements whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.

I have been a bit slack on my Gaia/nature posts on younger reader books but one author-illustrator I wanted to highlight was Sami Bayly. I love Sami’s Illustrated Encyclopedia series: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals, The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature. These gorgeous books would make a wonderful addition to any child’s library.

Sami Bayly is a regular award winner and anyone who follows the CBCA awards each year would be well aware of these beautiful books. More important than awards and critical acclaim, is the opinion of Sami’s intended young audience, and here I have been reliably informed, by those in the know, that Sami Bayly’s Illustrated Encyclopedia series is catnip to nature-interested children of all ages. They love her wonderful illustration and the beautiful way she captures the quirky, oddball and just plain grotesque but also the beautiful. Her skilful illustration is then backed up by an informative page of attention-grabbing facts about each animal or plant, including conservation status. Sami knows just how to grab a child’s attention and these books will have children absorbed for hours. They inspire future illustrators and conservationists in equal measure.

The three Illustrated Encyclopedia titles are characterised by detailed scientific illustrations, but these are not just accurate illustrations, they are art, filled with the curiosity and passion of the artist. Sami Bayly’s love of the natural world is pronounced and contagious. Any parent who has a child reading Sami Bayly can expect to be bombarded with facts and questions, as they absorb the information between these beautiful pages.

I just wanted to say with Christmas fast approaching these books would make fantastic gifts for any child but especially for the junior ecologist in your life. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature is probably my favourite, if it is possible to choose a favourite. I have recently purchased Sami’s latest book How we came to be – Surprising Sea Creatures and will post on that one later in the week. Check out Sami’s website for information about the books but also other art and free resources to accompany the books.

While all of Sami Bayly’s books make great nature reads for kids the truth is these beautiful books can be appreciated by readers of any age, from the very young to the ancient. Perfect choices for the Gaia/nature reading challenge.

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