INIS – the Children’s Books Ireland magazine – Summer 2010 edition
(Editor’s choice: ‘Reviews’ section ages 5 – 7)
A filth of starlings and A drove of bullocks are charming and informative picture books that introduce the reader to the weird and wonderful group names of animals, insects, birds and aquatic creatures. Everybody has heard of a school of whales but what about a dazzle of zebras or a quiver of cobras?
Each double-page spread illustrates a different animal group with a bold visual pun. A pride of lions is depicted with a yellow rosette that upon closer inspection forms the shape of a lion. These are picture books for a technologically savvy generation. A pod of dolphins is humorously depicted by dolphins listening to iPods.
For every graphic there is a complementary, unobtrusive, bite-size chunk of text providing information about the animal in question. The text gives a few interesting facts that spark curiosity without overwhelming detail. It also plays on the relationship between each animal and its collective noun, highlighting the animal’s personality or habits. In a ‘parliament of owls’ we are told that ‘calling and answering each other across the forest floor, the wise owls debate the issues of the night’.
The vocabulary is often quite sophisticated, however, and words like ‘ubiquitous’ and ‘ostentatious’ may be challenging for some readers. These books are attractive and cleverly presented and there is a lot of fun and discussion to be had trying to interpret the pictures.