I wish What On Earth Books had been around when I was a child. They publish the sort of books I’d have loved. Fortunately I’ve never been of the opinion that children’s books are not also for adults. (CS Lewis and I are as one in that.) So I am always excited when one of their titles lands in my house.
Following on from Amazing Islands, also illustrated by Kerry Hyndman but written by Sabrina Weiss, comes Amazing Rivers to delight and enthral readers of all ages. Islands are my thing; I collect visits to them, something which has been sadly curtailed recently. But anything to do with water fascinates me so I was delighted to read Amazing Rivers.
As a note from the author says, the rivers chosen for inclusion aren’t just a random selection. They’re designed to highlight different geographical features and locations and each one has something surprising or fascinating about it. I don’t have favourite rivers in the same way I do islands so I wasn’t checking to see if my special waterways were included. Instead I actually read the book from beginning to end and it was hugely interesting and entertaining.
The book’s designer should be given much of the credit for its success. The text and illustrations are combined brilliantly well. Blocks of text contain general information about rivers whilst details of particular rivers are superimposed on relevant illustrations. There are double page spreads, pages broken into blocks and single page illustrations. There’s even one whose pages extend!
Julie Vosburgh Agnone’s text is presented in clear, succinct and accessible chunks. She is always informative and interesting, and never condescends to her readers. Her words are sympathetically illustrated by Kerry Hyndman whose pictures are full of detail, character and emotion. And her diagrams and cross-sections carry much of a topic’s information.
The colours, the words, the pictures, the layout, the physical item: each of these is the best it can be. And they come together in wonderful combination to produce a treasure trove of information for readers of any age.