on October 11, 2000
"Animalia" is an illustrated book that brings you into a magical fantasy land full of animals. It features brilliant pictures of cats, birds, mice, unicorns and all sorts of animals. Each creature acts out interesting activities with gorgeous backgrounds. I am now sixteen, but I remember when the book recently came out, some six or seven years ago and I was amazed by the many sights of this book. Every page has "tongue twisters" for the letters of the alphebet, such as "Crafty Crimson Cats Carefully Catchting Crusty Crayfish" and "Lazy Lions Lounging In The Local Library". The pages also have pictures of many things that start with the letters. The lions look at books titled "Lassie Come Home", "Let's Learn Latin", and "Life In Louxembourg". The cats where charms and sit next to a pond, surrounded by a grand horizan where in the background you see castles and churches. Myself and my brother and sister loved looking for all of the things that started with C. We were also very amazed by the mesmorizing images. These illustrations look very lifelike, in fact, they look very much like the wonderful scenes children see in dreams. Reading this book with your kids is like walking through a great fantasy adventure in an animal world. It also serves as an excellent method to teach the alphebet to children. You will always enjoy reading this book with your kids and your kids will also enjoy reading and looking at the book by themselves.
on June 19, 2006
I found this book in a thrift store and was instantly mesmerized. The art is of the absolute highest caliber. Base is beyond gifted. These paintings are an ideal merger of realism and fantasy with lush, highly saturated color and deep, contrasty depth. I imagine this book could inspire any kid with a creative bent a great deal more than several trips to an art museum. I've bought copies to give to fellow artist/philosopher friends whether or not they've got kids. (We don't as yet, but we're working on it, and have beloved nieces and a nephew).
Now let me say this: I am glad I found this in a store rather than on Amazon. Given the reviews, I probably would have been wary of it, and skipped it. I don't approve of saturating toddlers minds with violence and certainly not black magic! But I'm not at all opposed to gentle fantasy. To me, this stuff is really sweet. It's not cutesy, but even the monsters look friendly and villains rather un-scary. Bombastic and over-the-top? Yes. Scary? No.
The dragons on the "D" page are eating "delicacies" -- dates and donuts, to be exact. There's not a flame in sight, their talons are nowhere near any people or animals, and they are smiling. It's a bright, sunny page with a blue sky (as in Daytime).
The little tiny monochromatic Frankenstein on the F page is also smiling and looking rather silly if you can even detect him in the foliage. On this same page, there is a Christian fish. (And on the A page, there's an angel, and a church or cathedral on the C page; on the H page there's a hymnal, along with a nun on the N page).
The infamous K page has the distinct look of a 1930's pulp fiction crime novel cover, right down to the art deco display typeface. There's even a carful of comical British police waving nightsticks. The kidnappers look conspicuously like disgruntled members of the IRA with their green plaids and golf hats. The wooden guns are NOT aimed AT Kitty Koala, but PAST her at whatever unseen interlopers might threaten their holding her for ransom. And SHE is dressed to the nines in diamonds and pearls and satin, with red lipstick like a thirties debutante. And she's got a Kit-kat and keys poking out of her sequined handbag. This is so "dark and disturbing"? Come ON!
Yep, there are a lot of mythological creatures, but none that don't show up regularly in the vernacular and even in Disney movies. And there are just as many Christian symbols (see above). And yes, I also found one tiny swastika (after much searching). But the Star of David appears at least as many times, more obviously, and there is a prominent Peace Parade on the P page with the Pope near the head of the crowd (along with a pirate, a policeman, a politician, a pregnant lady, and others). If anything, Graeme Base's political agenda is to be more accepting and inclusive. Everybody gets fair representation here. And by making the characters animals rather than people, he totally skips over the issue of race. Animals don't have "race." They just are. This book is an excellent overall cultural primer, probably educational no matter what your age.
I rush to reccommend it without remote reservations.
on April 27, 2000
I bought this for my son, but it turns out I enjoy it far more than him ;) The back of the book says something like "any child that doesn't soon own this should rightfully feel that their education has been shamefully neglected." An apt description! Every page is PACKED with detail. Each page represents a letter of the alphabet, and everything on that page starts with the letter. There are things hidden in shadows, and things that are in plain view. You'll get stuck if you open this book. So plan some time to use it, bring your observation hat and thesaurus, and have a blast.
on October 17, 2002
I remember distinctly the day on which I received this book as a present, along with another Graeme Base book "The Eleventh Hour". Being young, I was immediately fascinated by just looking at the front cover of "Animalia". And who wouldn't be fascinated with the beautiful artwork blossoming with abounding color? And I must say I just fell in love with the book!
"Within the pages of this book
You may discover, if you look
Beyond the spell of written words,
A hidden land of beasts and birds.
For many things are 'of a kind',
And those with keenest eyes will find
A thousand things, or maybe more -
It's up to your to keep the score.
Just by reading this poem (found in the very beginning of the book, the first two stanzas) you can tell what the book contains. "Animalia" is a picture book of A-Z, showing animals from Alligators to Zebras. And not your average alphabet book this is, each picture contains quite a number of things starting from the letter of each alphabet. And you also get quite a tongue twister for every letter. For example, I would never have imagined making a good tongue twister with the letter 'X' but Graeme uses a very unique technique (nice choice of words, huh?) to make an 'X' tongue twister.
And of course, the pictures and the quality in which they are written in is what makes Graeme Base's books so much more fun to read! Visually stunning, "Animalia" is pleasurable to the eye, I especially love the beautiful picture of the 'lazy lions lounging in the local library', reading books such as 'Lassie', 'Let's Learn Latin', 'and more. If you haven't had a chance to read or even peruse a Graeme Base book, I strongly recommend you do! Terrific for both young children and adults, I'm sure the books will satisfy!
on July 8, 1999
I bought this book for my 5 year old brother, and it is now his absolute favorite! The pictures are extremely detailed, and the little hidden pictures on each page are great! Every single little hidden thing starts with the letter that the picture illustrates. I have now purchased other Graeme Base books for him, since they all contain these colorful, up-to-date pictures. I swear you've never seen anything like it!
on August 13, 2001
Animalia By Graeme Base
What great illustrations! What great prose! The writing is arranged differently on each page, in different colors, styles, and size! What a way to introduce flexibility into a child's reading skills! And the motivation is fantastic! Children love the variety, both in the writing and in the detailed pictures! Kids love the silliness and words similar in sounds, too! And great big words for early readers are most challenging and exciting!
As a retired teacher, I remember reading times when older children (age 9 - 11), would sit for an entire silent reading period,looking for the tiny picture of Graeme Base on each page, all the while enjoying and appreciating the other illustrations, and usually chuckling about them I remember older children willingly reading aloud to younger children in an after-school program. I remember younger children (age5-6) reinforcing beginning sounds of letters in this book, by listening and reading the long words, sounding them out as they read along, getting hints from the many illustrations, and at the same time, sharpening their visual skills, noticing details on each page. All in all, a great book for children! Enjoy!
on August 16, 2001
I first came across this magnificent book many years ago and remain enchanted by it to this day. It is an utterly delightful book, and it is definitely not a book written just for children. For people who appreciate colourful art and illustration, this is a worthy addition to your collection.
It is a magical book to share with children too, though I suspect it simply may be too detailed to appeal to a child if left to read it themselves. It is the sheer complexity of the book that makes it attractive, and so much fun to share.
If you buy only one children's book for its illustrations, make it this one.
Forget the usual rhyming games - this is the way to teach your kid the alphabet.
Each page (or sometimes two) has a clever little phrase like "Lazy lions lounging in the local library." But it will not be only that - hidden in the sumptuous, realistic illustrations are tiny pictures, symbols and words that also begin with the letter of that page. Small kids will be delighted by the opportunity to find all of them, though parents may have to describe what the difference between a lobster and a crawfish is.
Humans don't really exist in this book, as animals seem to rule. The actions of the animals - such as aforementioned lions pawing lazily through books - seem very logical in this dreamy world. Even if you don't have kids or they are too old for picture books, check this out anyway. Excellence like this is not restricted to age.
We expect a quality children's book to take a certain amount of time to create. A couple months at least. Quite possibly a year. But the idea that a single book, a single PICTURE book, would take over three years to produce is mind-boggling. But take a gander at "Animalia" and all becomes clear. Widely considered, quite rightfully, to be Australian illustrator Graeme Base's masterpiece, the book is best described as the ultimate alphabet book. The go to source. When I'm sitting in a library (in a librarian-type capacity, mind you) and a harried guardian comes up to be with a squeamish tot in tow and requests an alphabet book, ANY alphabet book, one name comes to mind. "Animalia". Able to teach small children about everything from Quixote to ingots, the book does make the very dangerous assumption that parents showing it to their children are intelligent enough to answer each question of "what's that?", brought to their attention.
The concept is deceptively simple. Each letter is given either a lush one-page or two-page spread. Images on those pages fill every square inch with animals, objects, places, or people that begin with the letter in question. At the top reads an alliterative sentence like, "Lazy Lions Lounging In the Local Library" or "Victor V. Vulture the Vaudeville Ventriloquist: Versatile Virtuoso of Vociferous Verbosity: Vexatiously Vocalizing at the Valhalla Variety Venue". Then there's a scene that displays this, with little tiny details crammed into every nook and cranny. Finally, a boy in a striped yellow shirt can randomly be found hiding in many of the pictures, allowing kids the added fun of trying to find him alongside the well-organized chaos. The crazy thing is that the pictures all make an odd kind of sense when taken as a whole. Certainly they're surreal. But each image is utterly understandable in its own way. The warthogs charging into battle under a orange hazy sky are both dramatic and deeply enjoyable. Each picture is its own little world. Whether you're making out the crystallized creatures found in a large blue butterfly's wings or you're admiring the sheen coming off an instrumental iguana's skin, the book is a visual, verbal delight.
The book was originally published in 1986, just before that odd "Where's Waldo" craze hit the country full-force. Knowing this makes the little boy in the striped shirt seem that much more far-sighted. However, comparing this book to "Where's Waldo" is comparable to comparing a fine bottle of aged merlot to a can of Mountain Dew. There is no comparison. "Animalia" is the crème de la crème of the modern abecedaries. Hours and hours of time can be spent poring over a single letter (such as "P"). The only other picture book I've seen to compare with Base's attention to detail and sheer scale would have to be British children's author Peter Dallas-Smith's, "Trouble For Trumpets" or any other member of the "Trumpet" series.
Though I consider Base's, "The Water Hole" to be his best work when it comes to sheer ideas, "Animalia" is undoubtedly going to remain his best known book. And with good reason. It's beautiful, clever, and most importantly it's funny. How many alphabet books can say as much? A wonderful addition to any collection and a necessary purchase for ALL the children you know. If you buy a single alphabet book in your life, let it be this one.
on May 4, 2006
I have a confession. I read this children's book when my kids are asleep. I enjoy taking my time and studying the beautiful, detailed illustrations.
When I read it to my boys (ages 5 & 3), they are both trying so hard to identify more objects that I have a hard time getting a close look at the pictures. (They are usually playing tug-of-war over the book so they can each get a better look.) It's fun watching their faces light up as they discover another item that starts with the letter of the alphabet highlighted on whatever page they are studying. Both boys have increased their vocabulary since we received "Animalia" and "The Water Hole" a month ago. It is also fun to read these books with the boys because it invariably sparks a conversation. Yesterday, after looking at the parade which featured a pirate, the pope, a pigmy, a prisoner, a policeman, a piper, a pharaoh, a percussionist, a politician and a pregnant woman pushing a pig in a prim, we talked about what the best parade in the whole world would look like - and the parade was only a small part of the two pages highlighting the letter P.
These books were gifts for my sons' birthdays. Over the past month we have read from them at least twenty times. We don't usually make it all the way through the alphabet in one sitting because we spend a lot of time on each page. It's a new experience every time we read because they discover something new.