Even though print is meant to be well and truly dead by now, we appear to be in a golden age for children’s illustrated reference books. The variety and quality of chunky (yet reasonably-priced) titles on geography, history, nature and astronomy is staggering. The latest to hit our bookshelf, Wild Animals of the South, is particularly beautiful. The structure of it – and it’s companion edition, Wild Animals of the North – is quite simple: 150 pages of animals; an illustrated zoo.
This is very much about looking. Dieter Braun’s art is stylised and angular, similar in style to Charley Harper, but less decorative and abstract. He conjures life from deceptively simple geometry. This is perfect for entrancing younger readers (the Boy is four, and I don’t think he’s blinked once since opening this book), and for kicking off stories and further exploration into the natural world. Some of the images have captions, but they’re almost incidental. It would make good precursor to something more detailed and educational – Big Picture Press’ museum-in-a-book Animalium springs to mind.
The weighty stock and the quality of the print is impeccable. The colours are vibrant and deep, still far beyond anything you’ll see on a screen. Flying Eye Books have definitely produced something worth keeping (in fact, I’d suggest it’s also worth destroying: at this price, you may as well buy two copies, so you can gently hack one to pieces and frame Braun’s beautiful art). It’s lovely to see so much effort going into physical books aimed at our little digital natives – with books like this out there, print might just survive for another generation or two.
Daniel Benneworth Gray is a book designer, writer and dad. He’s designed books for Bloomsbury, Monotype, Sony and Unbound and written for BBC, The Guardian and Gym Class Magazine as well as having a regular column in Creative Review.