Red Alert! by Catherine Barr and Anne Wilson

June 2018

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This month, many schools will be supporting World Environment Day and World Oceans Day, so I thought this would be an awesome book to choose for June. This book explores the IUCN Red List of endangered animals and focuses on 15 wonderful creatures that need our help. It is written by Catherine Barr and illustrated by Anne Wilson.

 

Endpapers, glorious endpapers! This book doesn’t disappoint here. We begin with a beautiful map, where we can see the creatures and discover where in the world they may be found. If you love a good map and are an animal lover, check out this lovely book, too (oh and this one!). Then, we have a quote from Sir David Attenborough. Well if his words are in the book, then I’m reading on. A great starter for some challenging vocabulary, too.

The book is so interactive and flexible and encourages readers to make a choice in how they access the information. I love this! You start with a place, then pick a creature. For younger readers, this is a great chance to develop non-fiction skills, using a contents page in a fun way. For older, maybe previously reluctant readers, it puts the control firmly in the reader’s hands.

 

For each of the 15 creatures, there is a double-page spread including: their name and Latin name; how they are classified (great link for science);  the story of the creature; facts about them; the dangers they face; and a prompt to go to the help page.

 

The stories really bring the creatures alive for children. The power of a story is used to good effect here, nurturing an interest and hopefully a love. Reading this book makes me think of the quote from Dr Seuss’ Lorax: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!’ This book empowers the readers to take a stand and make a change, saying yes you too can make a difference. The creatures vary, so there really is one for each of us to fall in love with. Stories range from a Panamanian Tree Frog going to a frog hotel to save it from a fungal disease, to Blue Whales, tricky for whale spotters to actually spot due to declining numbers, and from Chinese Giant Salamanders being measured by scientists, to snow leopards, low in numbers, difficult for a wildlife photographer to capture on film. I love that it ends with a positive story of the Giant Panda – a good news story. This shows readers what can happen when we work for change – a real message of hope and a call to action!

The facts are really interesting and again build on that growing love of the creature. Here would be a good place to mention Catherine Barr’s series of 10 Reasons to love books with illustrator Hanako Clulow.

 

They are a great prompt for research and children’s own writing in KS2, maybe about a creature in Red Alert! or of their own finding. They are great book for younger readers to enjoy, too.

The danger section on each creature is very clear to understand. It brings us back to the interaction with the book, prompting readers to go to page 42, which I think may just be my favourite part of the book.

 

I just love the call to action on this page, yet it is appropriate and achievable for the age of readers – brilliant! For each creature there is a way to get involved ranging from websites to visit (perfect for older readers who want to research further), quizzes to take, colouring pages, e-cards to send, folk songs to tell and folk songs to sing. So many ways you can get involved with your class here. Followed by the instruction to go back and choose another creature and the fun begins again!

 

The book closes with a little further information on the IUCN Red List and a weblink to find out more. Then a final interaction with the beautiful endpapers: matching the silhouettes to creature names. This is another encouragement to find out more.

A great book!

 

You may also be interested in these blog posts on a similar theme : Blue Planet, Somebody Swallowed Stanley.

Further reading could include Ten Thousand, Eight Hundred and Twenty Endangered Species in the Animal Kingdom by Paul Rockett and Mark Ruffle, and Write On.. Endangered Animals by Clare Hibbert.

 

Keep an eye out for our Reading is STEMsational book and learning lists, coming soon!

 

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