Recently, we’ve enjoyed a lot of excellent books about human heroes (watch out for a blog post coming soon!), but today the blog is celebrating some rather remarkable creatures who have earned their place in the history books. Let me introduce ‘WildLives’ by Ben Lerwill – Make sure you scroll down to read his exclusive Q&A about his animal inspirations.
This fascinating book recounts the lives and deeds of animals brave and bold. Some are celebrated for their contributions to science, some for amazing rescues and some for the adventures they’ve had.
Organised into three sections, there’s something here to integrate everyone. Book Boy stole this book from my pile the second it had been opened and dived straight in (always a good sign!) He was soon exclaiming about what he was reading. His particular favourites were Ning Nong – an elephant who saved a girl from drowning in the terrible 2004 tsunami in Thailand, and Sergeant Stubby – the stray dog adopted by US soldiers after he wandered onto their army base in 1917.
Beautifully illustrated double-page spreads means there’s a wealth of facts and information to explore and marvel at. The use of photos also help really bring the animals to life – I loved peeking through these little windows into history and imagining the adventures had by the animals within them.
A visually-appealing and highly engaging books which I hope will encourage its readers to stop and consider just how creative, brave and intelligent other animals can be. And to realise that those characteristics aren’t just the preserve of humans.
Now let’s hear about the animals experiences which inspired this book:
Ben Lerwill is the author of WildLives, a new non-fiction book published by Nosy Crow. It tells the stories of 50 remarkable animals through history, from Laika the space dog to Dolly the cloned sheep. WildLives is Ben’s first children’s book. To mark World Animal Daythis week on Friday 4th October, we spoke to him to find out more about it.
Which animals feature in WildLives?
There are fifty stories in total, and I tried hard to make sure the book covered a real mix of different animals. Some are tiny – there’s a Skye Terrier in there – while others are huge. To give you the full Noah’s Ark inventory, the book has (deep breath) seven dogs, four bears, three chimpanzees, three lions, three elephants, three gorillas, two cats, two sheep, two dolphins, two horses, two penguins, two rhinos, a wolf, a parrot, a seal, a hawk, a cow, a goat, a giant tortoise, an orca, a donkey, an octopus, a tiger, a koala and a very determined hippo!
What makes them all special?
The common link is that every one of the animals has an extraordinary tale to tell. Some have survived incredible feats of endurance, others have saved human lives, others have taught us invaluable lessons about the natural world. Some, such as Laika, are well known, but many of the stories were new to me when I started researching. Learning about animals such as Hachiko, the dog who waited outside the same Tokyo station every evening for nine years, and Machli, the Indian tigress who always defended her cubs, was hugely enjoyable.
Where does your passion for wildlife come from?
I’ve spent the last 15 years working as a travel writer for different magazines, newspapers and guidebooks. It’s taken me to places I never dreamt I would ever get the chance to visit, and has led to all sorts of memorablewildlife encounters. When I get back from a trip, the first questions my kids ask are almost always about which animals I’ve seen!
Which wildlife experiences really stand out?
There have been too many to mention! Writers are conditioned to think of ‘breathtaking’ as the ultimate clichéd adjective, but there are times, where wildlife is concerned, when it really is the right word. I certainly won’t forget my first sight of a gorilla in Uganda, an immense silverback striding across a jungle stream, andI’d have to mention the mesmeric spectacle of a 250,000-strong Adélie penguin colony in Antarctica. Of course, far-flung lands aren’t everything. I take huge pleasure from wildlife-watching in the UK, and we’re blessed with an amazing country for outdoor-lovers. I’ll remember watching an otter fishing at sunset off Unst(one of the Shetland Islands) until the day I die. On which note, I’m a firm believer that when the weather’s fine – which admittedly isn’t a given – there’s nowhere on the planet quite like Scotland.
Does the book cover different parts of the world?
Absolutely! It has stories from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia. There’s even a world map at the end to show you where all the animals were born. And as well as taking in different world regions, it also spans different eras, from creatures that wowed the French aristocracy in the 1780s through to animals that have made headlines in the present day. I was particularly pleased to include Streetcat Bob, who currently has 91,000 Twitter followers (and counting!).
WildLives by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh, is out now, published by Nosy Crow, £16.99 hardback.
*Many thanks to Nosy Crow for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*