So school is out, summer is in full swing, we are reading our way through dozens of books. Let’s face it, this is the summer that we won’t be doing a million outings, after a school year with no outings. It is time to settle in, head for the great outdoors whenever we can and otherwise read…

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Meanwhile I thought I would put a list together of extremely giftable books… something for absolutely everyone in the family.

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Africa’s Wild Dogs: A Survival Story

By Jocelin Kagan

This is the most beautiful nature book of the year, and its message is loud and clear. With less than 5000 wild dogs left on the continent of Africa, their story, and their plight needs to be heard. The photographer/author Jocelin Kagan, has spent years following and gathering information to share… photographs and intimate knowledge of their habits and personalities. Not only has she spent hours in the dirt… trailing after them, but she has called on several other experts to help her to create this beautiful book.

While this is a coffee table special and full of incredible photographs and thought provoking quotations, it also tells a story… you will discover families and their interactions, their incredible hunting skills, how the dogs communicate with each other and the environment around them. The story of these wild dogs is not a story really, it is a tragedy on a grand scale… they need wide open spaces, they need to be able to hunt and they need a chance to survive on the plains of Africa. It is not a romantic idea to protect them at all, it is achievable… but we are only good at protecting those things that we know about and understand. So reading this book is a great place to start, getting to know and understand these dogs will lead to their protection… this is a book that needs to be shared far and wide.

The forward was written by Mike Gunto, the Creative Director for the BBC series, Dynasties, of which Wild Dogs is one of the Five Great Dynasties. This book is exactly like reading a photographic documentary of the life and times of a herd of wild dogs and all the royalties from the book go towards Africa’s Wild Dog Survival Fund.

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Field Guide to the Renosterveld of the Overberg

by Odette Curtis-Scott, Mike Goulding, Nick Helme, Rhoda McMaster, Sean Privett, Charles Stirton

If you are traveling in the Western Cape over the holidays, then chances are that you will be traveling to that beautiful area of the South Western Cape, known as the Overberg, where you will find yourself in vegetation known as the Renosterveld, within the fynbos biome. This book is the essential guide… honestly it should be in every guest house and airbnb, for visitors to the area to discover the incredible area and magical nature surrounding them. The first section of the book includes introductions to the history, the natural history, the vegetation and wildlife of the area.

There is a very important section just before the plant section… that explains the naming of the plants and where to find all the information that you need on the species within the book. And then its a go… pages and pages of stunning photographs of plant families and then their associated fact cards. All plants that you will find on a walk in the countryside or even an overnight hike in the area. You are in one of the most plant rich regions of the world, so hundreds of plants have been included and the photographs really help with identification. After the plant section there is a section on the animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. It is all very clear and easy to find what you are looking for.

If this is a region that you like to visit as a family, then this book is the essential nature guide to the region. This is an area, so close to home, that we usually visit it a couple of times a year. This book will definitely be traveling with us, in the glove compartment for easy access, on future visits.

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Let’s Cook

by Siba Motongana

This book is superb, I absolutely love it and will definitely be blogging it again next year, as hood 8 (age 11) is working his way through it for school at the moment… we have been treated to several feasts along the way. This cook book is just adventurous enough for a young chef to try new things and at the same time teaches loads of basics as you wander your way through it.

The book is really well laid out with a massive section on breakfasts, followed by snacks, lunches and then dinners. Each spread is one recipe, so no confusing ingredients or ideas… the ingredients are listed clearly, and the kitchen tools are illustrated… so no chance of confusion. The book is packed with little tips along the way, that your kids will enjoy trying out, like the Egg Flotation Test.

Whenever we get a new cook book to look at my kids go through it and take a peak at it and pick the recipes they want to try… well we had post it notes on every page… so I decided that it was time to change it up a bit and we are going to cook our way all the way through this recipe books… from fritata to oat pots, raspberry popsicles and tropical smoothies, chicken sliders and sibalicious sticky ribs, chicken pasta soup and ratatouille… I can’t wait. It is going to be a tastebud adventure of the very best kind.

You can find the lovely and vivacious Siba and her cute kiddos on instagram, and her website, packed with loads of delicious recipes over here.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

by Hugh Lofting

An absolute classic and favourite from my childhood. My father read all the Hugh Lofting books to me as a child and they bring back very fond memories. This is the story of a man, called Dr. Dolittle, who can speak to animals and goes on an incredible adventure. This book is one of the sequels to the original book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, but you do not have to have read the first book to enjoy the stories. You will be reintroduced to all of the good Doctors wonderful friends, Polynesia the Parrot, Chee-Chee the monkey and so on. There are copies of the original illustration plates every couple of pages… and of course all the wild and exciting adventures.

It is such a memorable read… talking to animals is a wonderful idea. Hugh Lofting’s ability to create personalities in the animals means that the young reader will never see animals as “things” again… and that is a not a little bit life changing.

The book has been updated from the original 1923 edition and is more politically correct, but there were still quite a few things that emerged into discussion about colonialism and such like. That being said… I think my inner self is based on the character of Dr. DoLittle, I have always loved exploring and discovering outdoors and our entire house is one giant nature table… hopefully I have passed on my inner Dr. Dolittle to my kids and any animal loving child anywhere, will really enjoy this book.

I am just going to whisper here, don’t fall into the trap of watching the movie, Dolittle, instead of reading the book… the movie is never as good as the book (that’s my mantra for a reason). While the movie is great it is nothing at all like the book. Different story, different thing and loads more magic… the book is real. Real creatures that can talk to the Doctor, real adventures and so on… the movie is great, just not the book.

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The Amazing Lockdown Adventure

Created by Benjamin G. Hewett and Paddy Muldoon

illustrated by Anja Stoeckigt

The concept of this book is so cool… when a lockdown family decides to do something about the boredom and starts a story that they pass on to friends and family around the world… and eventually it returns home. You get a great and exciting story for the younger set. This colourful picture book, with massive and delightful double page spread illustrations is the most amazing story of seven year old Jac and his younger sister, Lily. They are stuck at home and bored, bored, bored as the global pandemic takes hold and days and day so lockdown stretch ahead of them. And then, they go on an adventure under his bed… and a wild and fantastic adventure it is… along the way they make friends with a tortoise called Winston and a mole called Dougie. and together these four friends have a quest to complete… there is a lot of writing… the story is fantastic and perfect for a read aloud, broken up into chapters so you could make it a bed time story over a couple of days… my kids wanted it all at once, just saying!!! There is a lot to look at in the illustrations… and lots of links bank in the story… the more you read, the more you find to look at. This is a great story and would make a great keepsake, as the year we were all stifled by a pandemic.

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Peter Rabbit Activity Books and Movie Tie-ins

originally by Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit and the Beatrix Potter Collection have always been firm favourites in our nature loving home, and this past year we have managed to listen to the entire collection on audible. Another favourite of ours has been the Peter Rabbit Movie… and after what I just wrote above… the movies are nothing like the books… but still delightful. We have watched the movies several times and we just love them.

This little collection of activity books that tie in with the movie are extremely giftable:

  • Peter Rabbit 2, A Chapter Book: This book tells the story of the movie in short easy to read chapters, perfect for emerging readers, or a “chapter a night” for bed time stories.
  • Peter Rabbit 2, the Quiz Book: This is lovely, pages of facts, questions, things to fill in and do, wordsearches, crosswords, mazes and doodle pages. This is perfect roadtrip material, and any young at heart fact lover would love it.
  • Peter Rabbit 2, Sticker Activity Book: This is altogether lovely, and the stickers make it. Loads and loads of adorable Peter Rabbit Stickers, on bright full colour pages, with paper strong enough to handle markers, crayons, whatever your kids throw at them.
  • Peter Rabbit 2, Colouring Activity Book: Same format as the Sticker Activity Book, with loads and loads of colour stickers and not just any colouring, there are mazes and colour by number and loads of activities for busy little fans.

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Revolting Things to Touch and Feel

by Roald Dahl

illustrated by Quentin Blake

Board books are definitely not what they used to be. A lovely chunky board book with absolutely gorgeous surprises on every spread. There is something slimey or sticky, yucky or bumpy, scratchy and slithery on every page. And on the final page you will discover the most surprisingly disgusting thing of all… in a mirror. If you have grown up loving Roald Dahl, then this is a great place to start sharing the legacy with your little ones.

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All these books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa and Struik Nature. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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