Reviews: Four Non-Fiction Nature Books

Linda Jane Keegan is back with another round of non-fiction reviews, this time with a selection of picture books all about the unique flora and fauna that we share our environment with.

Where is it in town? by Ned Barraud

Following on from Where is it?, this search-and-find in a town setting is a beautifully illustrated addition to Ned Barraud’s work. Each double-page spread features a scene you might find in your backyard or local park, and a collection of mostly animals but also fungi and even a shed skin of a gecko.

Like its predecessor, all the things you have to find are illustrated and labelled on the side. This works well for both younger and older kids because you don’t need to be able to read to know what to look for, and/or you can learn the names of the different creatures (and not-creatures). Look in the leaf litter, in the shed, at the botanical gardens or by the wharf! 

Spread from Where is it in town? by Ned Barraud (Potton & Burton)

The back of the book gives extra information on all the species found in the book, which covers both native and introduced animals.

It’s a lovely book and you can’t fault it, perfect for inspiring exploration and discovery.

Where is it in Town?

By Ned Barraud

Published by Potton & Burton

RRP: $21.99

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Wild Coasts: Exploring Aotearoa’s Marine Reserves, by Ned Barraud

Another Ned Barraud masterpiece, Wild Coasts is a dive into six of New Zealand’s 44 marine reserves showcasing ocean species and their habitats.

The illustrations are lush, and the facts are bite-sized and engaging. Maps for each section show the location of the reserve in question—both in relation to its position around the country and a close-up outline of the area.

Spread from Wild Coasts: Exploring Aotearoa’s Marine Reserves, by Ned Barraud (Potton & Burton)

I loved seeing some of the lesser-known or unglamorous species such as Gorgonian corals and sea cucumbers in amongst the snapper and dolphins and sea horses.

It’s a very attractive book and a wonderful introduction to marine life and ecology. Great for kids interested in the sea, wildlife, conservation and beautiful books. I can’t really say more about it because it really speaks for itself!

Wild Coasts: Exploring Aotearoa’s Marine Reserves

By Ned Barraud

Published by Potton & Burton

RRP: $21.99

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Tiaki, by Jean Donaldson

The production of this book is fantastic. I love the creamy matte paper stock, excellent use of white space, and the combination of black and white sketches and full-colour illustrations. And I love seeing a book that showcases the lesser-known gems of our native wildlife. It offers a really cool selection of species, including one I hadn’t heard of myself!

Tiaki was written with youth in mind, and the short sections of text are easily digestible with relatable comparisons, such as ‘The gecko weighs about the same as a packet of Tic-Tacs.’

Spread from Tiaki, by Jean Donaldson (Potton & Burton)

I regret to add, however, that a few typos and some text that could have done with an edit were a bit of a let-down for me, and surprising to see from Potton & Burton who have such high-calibre books. I think readability and clarity could have been improved in a few places. I also would have liked to see a list of the scientific names in-text or in the back, especially given the intended audience for the book (intermediate age and teenagers).

Overall, the book design is outstanding and I would not hesitate to share it with any young nature-loving person in my life.


By Jean Donaldson

Published by Potton & Burton

RRP: $29.99

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The Monarch Butterly—new migrant, written by Annemarie Florian and illustrated by Alistair Hughes

The Monarch Butterfly is an informative and poetic narrative of the life cycle of the monarch. It has a similar feel to Snapper and like their previous work uses delightful language and technical terms. Ailerons, proboscis, chrysalis—they roll off the tongue like the delicious little tidbits of knowledge they are.

The book begins with a several-page introduction preceding the title page, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It was nice to have that background but stopping at the title page felt like an interruption.

Spread from The Monarch Butterfly, by Annemarie Florian, illustrated by Alistair Hughes (White Cloud Books)

But the story continues, and I lapped up language like curlicue, voracious, concertinas, luminescent. This book takes a well-known insect and informs the reader about it in such a lyrical way that it doesn’t feel didactic or forced. Some of the larger-type verse didn’t really work for me but others fit in nicely, like ‘Hungry, hungry… crunch, munch.’

Further information in the back is interesting but perhaps a bit wordy without any imagery to keep younger readers engaged. However, the illustrations throughout the book clearly show the different stages and habitats of the monarch and are laid out well with the text.

The Monarch Butterfly—new migrant

Written by Annemarie Florian

Illustrated by Alistair Hughes

Published by White Cloud Books

RRP: $27.99

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cartoon character with long hair smiling

Linda Jane is the lead editor of The Sapling, a parent, and a writer of picture books, poetry, and other tidbits. Her background is varied, including work in ecology, environmental education, summer camps, and a community newspaper. She is Singaporean-Pākehā, queer, and loves leaping into cold bodies of water.