Wild Lives

Authored by Ben Lerwill
Illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Published by Nosy Crow

Wild Lives is a beautiful nonfiction story-book – one of my most sought-after kinds of book to use in the classroom. I love how authors can turn thrilling storytelling techniques to the real world as though to say, ‘This will seem like it’s fantasy but it all 100% happened!’ Children love this too. From my experience, stories like the ones in Wild Lives grip young readers and inspire a life-long interest in the world around them.

Following in the footsteps of the enormously popular Survivors and Heroes by David Long, Wild Lives relates the stories of ’50 extraordinary animals that made history’. I was impressed by the range of creatures included here. There are the familiar tales of Beast-Heroes, such as the pigeons used in World War II, Laika the space-dog, and Seabiscuit. However the less familiar is included in this collection too; there’s also an orca, a giraffe, two penguins, a hippo…even an octopus who could open jars!

I liked the wide variety of stories, but also how the book is organised into themed sections like ‘Inspire and Influence’ and ‘Change and Solve’. It’s a very ‘dippable’ book too – one that could be a great standby for story-time in any Junior classroom or bedtime story at home. Each animal’s tale takes up a uniform double-page spread, so there’s plenty of time to read and discuss in any twenty-minute session. Chances are, though, that children will want to hear or read more of the stories after just one example! It’s addictive!

Special mention has to go to the illustrations here. Colourful, attractive and sympathetic to their subject, Sarah Walsh’s pictures are an absolute dream. They make the book warmly appealing to young readers, and many children would be excited to read more nonfiction just from the way that the pictures welcome them in.

I’m a firm advocate of daily reading aloud to children in Key Stage 2 classrooms. As their interests and reading tastes develop, I’m also really keen to ensure the children that I teach enjoy a broad range of text types read to them. Nonfiction is currently in something of a Golden Age and books like Wild Lives need to be snapped up by teachers looking for cracking stories to read to their classes…ones that are absolutely true. Children will relish these tales – they’re immediately inspiring, and there’s loads to discuss and relate to all of our lives.

This is a joyful and amazing collection of stories – more please, Ben, Sarah and Nosy Crow!