Red Alert!

Authored by Catherine Barr
Illustrated by Anne Wilson
Published by Otter-Barry Books

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Red Alert! :15 Endangered Animals Fighting to Survive was written with the collaboration of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This picturebook offers its young audience information about several diverse species whose future is in jeopardy and suggests ways in which readers can raise consciousness further about these issues.

It’s an attractively produced book, with illustrations in bright clear colours and a text which combines a simple story and a series of facts about each creature, and sets out the reasons why each one is on the IUCN Red Alert list. What is especially appealing about the book is its interactive quality, it’s a way of involving readers from the beginning by inviting them to first ‘pick a place’, choose a creature that lives there, and then go to its page to find the information.

The book is dealing with serious issues and is explicit about the fact that so many endangered species are harmed by pollution and hunted for their meat, skin, fur and the exotic pet trade. Nevertheless, it manages to include a small note of hope by recording that a few have been downlisted from endangered to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, thanks to conservation efforts. The message for the book’s young readers is that there is much more to be done. It encourages agency suggesting they have a part to play, principally by finding out and learning more, creating publicity locally and disseminating information through projects such as making posters, sending ecards and writing and performing poetry. It explains how they can support charities and organisations. There is a useful directory of websites relating to each creature towards the end of the book, which immediately invites further involvement and which will, I imagine, inspire all young readers to take action and find out more.

I am confident that Red Alert! will be pored over individually, shared with friends, and discussed by primary school children of all ages. Although the text focuses on only fifteen creatures, the final list of another sixty endangered species will be hard to ignore. Who would not want to know more about the Golden-rumped Sengi, the Northern Quoll, the Devil’s Hole Pupfish or the Banded Cotinga? And the tribute written by Sir David Attenborough in praise of the IUCN Red List emphasises that this is a book with credibility and relevance for a young contemporary audience.                                                               

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