Reviews /

Lesser Spotted Animals 2

Authored by Martin Brown
Illustrated by Martin Brown
Published by David Fickling Books

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Lesser Spotted Animals 2 is Martin Brown’s second non-fiction text about rare animals, and it is packed full of facts, wit and humour.

The highly entertaining explanations address the reader directly. The tone can be informal, but at the same time, the text is full of technical vocabulary too. ‘So you won’t find any king-of-the-jungle, fancy-pants lions here – we’ve got the magnificent maned wolf instead.’

Each entry has a detailed facts box, humorous cartoons (which remind me of Gary Larson) and animals who talk. The direct gaze of the animals is disconcerting at times but softened by their comments. At the back of the book, we have an excellent glossary providing explicit definitions of the technical terms.

The explanation for the Tamandua has a particularly dramatic opening as the reader is positioned as the prey. ‘It begins with a ripping crash as the walls of your home are torn away by powerful arms and terrible claws.’  If you are looking for exciting expanded noun phrases, look no further ‘a spray of evil stench worse than a skunk’s’.

Another strength is that the explanations are not formulaic. Each one is different with its own syntactical features. Many could be used for a grammar focus on sentence structure. The Grey Slender Loris explanation is one of my favourites: ‘Slender lorises generally hunt alone, but, when the sun rises, they retreat to their favourite thicket of branches, high in a tree, to cuddle up with as many as seven others in a tangle of arms and legs called a “sleeping ball”. All safe and sound’.

Throughout the book, the reader is reminded of the threats to these animals, such as the cultivation of palm oil and the effects of our use of single-use plastics. This is never heavy-handed or patronising. However, there is plenty of stimulus for fruitful classroom discussions.

In terms of use in schools, I would have copies of both Lesser Spotted Animals and Lesser Spotted Animals 2 in the library for pupils to borrow. I would use extracts as useful models of explaining and entertaining. A set for Guided Reading would also work well in Years 5 and 6. A versatile and genuinely funny non-fiction text.

You can listen to Martin discussing his books in an interview In the Reading Corner here.