This large picture book comes with its own ‘fully animated’ DVD. Not having a DVD machine, I first looked at the book on its own. It’s a comprehensive exposition of what makes an animal an animal and many samples of animal activity accompanied by orthographic renderings of the appropriate noises. So we find that animals come in different sizes, shapes and habitats, animals eat and excrete (elephants with a paarrpp! and hippos with a plop plop plop), have babies and move in sometimes mysterious ways (octopuses with a swooosh! and sloths with a sep-sep-sep). So far this is not very noisy and accuracy is a definite difficulty – I never yet heard a pig go oink oink. The pictures, though, cheerfully make up for this, for Eric Carle casts a long and luminous shadow over the whole production. Teckentrup presents an affectionate amplification of the master’s painted collage technique, in particular his trademark Prussian Blue; among her cavalcade of creatures she carefully includes brown bears seeing what they can see, some fairly hungry caterpillars and a well-tempered ladybird or two. The whole makes a pleasantly peaceable kingdom. On the page, though, the noises are distinctly noises off.
But the DVD is full of sound as, spread by spread, the creatures move and give tongue in sometimes natural, sometimes synthetic tones. This broadens the appeal of the outfit considerably and makes it a good entertainment as well as basically sound information. The youthful audience whose DVD machine we used demanded copious re-runs of the ‘Poo Facts’ spread from which we learn that a week’s worth of elephant dung weighs as much as 70 children. So it’s a useful and entertaining addition to a teacher’s or playgroup’s armoury as well as a pleasant experience in its own right.