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  • Writer's pictureSandy

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals, by Sami Bayly

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

So I might be a little (ok, a lot) obsessed with this beautifully designed encyclopaedia, which is a 2020 CBCA shortlisted book. There is something so captivating about it - the front cover alone inviting an immediate tactile response with its shiny green embossed lettering (I can't stop stroking it actually!)

My kids love non-fiction books – there is something they find endlessly fascinating in learning real facts about the world around them. They are also drawn to researching dangerous animals (especially those with toxic venom! There is endless discussion about how toxic an animal is and if it would kill you in real life).

Imagine, then, their excitement when The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals arrived in our household!

This is a beautifully crafted book – from the colourful front cover through to the meticulously designed end-papers of black and white illustrations of some of the animals featured in the book.

The information included in the encyclopaedia is presented with a concise clarity and does not talk down to its young audience. Each page illuminates fascinating facts about some of the worlds most dangerous animals – including the Asian Giant Hornet, the electric eel and even our own Australian magpie!

Sami Bayly has successfully managed to portray these often misunderstood animals as truly captivating and wonderous creatures that have adapted to suit their environment and ensure their own survival. It’s not often we stop to think about why we need to try to protect these animals (probably because we are taught to fear them) – but this book makes us slow down and consider how some of these animals are actually beautifully unique in their own right and have as much right to life as we do! An important conversation to have with our kids in relation to themes of conservation and protecting our environment.

My boys particularly love poring over the ‘danger factor’ section on each page along with the ‘fun facts.’ I must admit I love the fun facts too – who would have thought that the African buffalo have good memories – enough so that they can remember people who have hurt them in the past!

Sami’s passion for the animals is most apparent in her exquisite watercolour illustrations. The level of detail is astonishing – the pictures are glossy and eye-catching and seem almost to live and breathe on the page. There is so much intricate detail to explore in each full page illustration.

This book arrived in our household just in time to coincide with a school project Mr 7 was working on, in which he had to design a poster based on facts about an animal of his choosing. After browsing through the encyclopaedia he selected the Red-headed Mouse Spider – which neither of us knew are actually found across mainland Australia. The male spiders are quite stunning to look at -with red jaws and head and a bright blue body. We were able to utilise the information provided in this book to help Mr 7 complete his project - and having the encyclopaedia at hand certainly made this task a lot easier! (Also as a former librarian I am a big fan of using actual hardcopy books for information and not just relying on online sources - some of which are wildly inaccurate).

Mr 7 and I both highly recommend this encyclopaedia for your school age child (middle grade through to young adult) – it is informative, fun and visually stunning.

I note that Sami has a new encyclopaedia coming out in September 2021 – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs - and we can’t wait to add it to our home library!

Published by Lothian Books (Hachette Australia)



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