You may have heard of an armadillo or an orangutan but if I asked you what a ‘quoll’ was, would you know the answer?
I didn’t when I first browsed through Graham Carter’s beautiful book Alphamals (alphabetical animals!) so I was fascinated to learn that it is a small but fierce creature that ‘sleeps through the day then wakes at night. With a long, dark snout and speckled coat, he prowls the shady forest floor, feasting on birds and other beasts.’
Carter’s book is an A to Z of animals, insects, birds and fish. Each double-page spread has, on the left side, a description of the creature (written in a stanza form) and on the right side, an illustration. The colours are gorgeous and inviting – 26 pieces of art within a children’s book (there is only one creature per letter). Sometimes the exact details of the animals are a little unclear so perhaps it doesn’t work as a reference book, but it is certainly something that is visually stunning while still having interesting information.
I showed the book to the children in my library and everyone pored over it. When we looked at the quoll it started off a conversation about nonsense animals (even though the quoll is real!) so we decided it would be good fun to invent an animals, either just by creating a whacky name from nowhere or by combining the names of different real animals.
To aid the children in their creativity I also read them Spike Milligan’s poem, ‘The Hipporhinostricow’
Such a beast is the Hipporhiostricow
How it got so mixed up we’ll never know how;
It sleeps all day, and whistles all night,
And it wears yellow socks which are far too tight.
If you laugh at the Hipporhinostricow,
You’re bound to get into an awful row;
The creature is protected you see
From silly people like you and me.
The results were very interesting:
Left to right, we have:
a Higer: Higer is a horse and a tiger it / likes to eat nuts and tires / it always gets tangled in a wire / They hire there job before they / get fired don’t come next to Higer / or he’ll give you a rhymer and that / rhymer is me.
a Mimi-Lily-Cuty: There is a creature in the forest / Its name is Mimi-Lily Cuty…
a Noctopus: a Noctopus is an octopus / that lives in the night, / It doesn’t like the light, / because it’s to bright. / It’s black with white spots / that don’t look like dots / The fish that it eats / are kept under locks / because it doesn’t want / them adventuring near the docks.
a Poodle Doodle: a Hoodle that eats noodles / and likes to doodle on woodles / and toodles don’t come next to Poodle / or he’ll give you a flue-doll
a Wider: A whale and a spider / create an enormous Wider / It loves looking at pies / With all eight eyes.
Which is your favourite?
Alphamals, by Graham Carter, is published by Big Picture Press.