This accessibly written collection of ten stories from around the world (Russia, China, South America, Africa, Japan, Greenland, the Far East, ancient Israel and ancient Greece) encourages respect for the planet and for the animals that inhabit it. The relationship between people and animals is a constant theme – sometimes it is the humans who protect the animals (eg the girl who helps a wounded swan), sometimes it’s the other way round (the elephant who carries the boy safely away from the tsunami). The threat posed by human activity (mining for precious stones, the hunting of whales) to the wonders of the natural world is for the most part implicit within the stories rather than a theme didactically imposed.
Jane Ray’s exquisite illustrations in jewel-like bright watercolours and inks are sometimes enclosed with decorative borders, sometimes vignettes. Her palette reflects the landscape of each tale – airy greys and browns for Greenland; blues and yellows for Africa – enhancing the sense of wonder and pleasure that will be experienced by young readers as travel from one part of the earth to another. Ray’s landscapes are sometimes reminiscent of Mughal paintings with their stylised deer and undulating hills. A handsome production.