1,001 Creatures by Aino Järvinen and Laura Merz, translated by Emily Jeremiah

Today, Mia Spangenberg reviews 1,001 Creatures written by Aino Järvinen and Laura Merz, translated from Finnish by Emily Jeremiah (Restless Books). It was originally published in Finnish as Tuhat ja yksi otusta. The English translation is due out at the end of September.

By Mia Spangenberg

When my daughter and I first picked up this picture book, we were immediately drawn to the unique and lively illustrations. Merz’ playful attitude and love of creatures big and small shines through in drawings she made using unconventional tools like sticks, sponges, and spatulas. Each of the 26 animals – ranging from elephants and jellyfish to tigers and dung beetles – convey depth and motion and are just plain fun to look at.

Each picture and the accompanying text also introduce children to some of the fascinating things animals do: Bats hang upside down, penguins hoard rocks, birds clean the teeth of crocodiles, and yes, hippos spray their pee and poop to ward off intruders. The text is short but engaging, relating fun facts and ending with a question or prompt to encourage further play and discussion. It’s a wonderful way for children to begin to learn about predator/prey relationships and how animals are adapted to their specific environments.

The last entry on the dung beetle brings home the message: even tiny creatures such as these play their part in ensuring the health of their ecosystem, and our job as humans is to marvel at and protect the natural world we are all a part of. Presented in large format, this colorful book is both a work of art and a great first encyclopedia for the youngest animal lovers. Who says children’s nonfiction can’t be both fun and informative?

Mia Spangenberg is an emerging translator from Finnish and German whose work includes many sample translations of children’s books. Mia is an active member of ALTA, the American Literary Translators Association.


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