Tag Archives: Martin Brown

Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals 2

This is the most sarcastic book about animals I’ve ever come across. It’s also the funniest. (Unless the first book was. I don’t know, as I didn’t read it.) But yes, as it says on the cover, ‘more brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about.’

Martin Brown, Lesser Spotted Animals 2

Though, I don’t know. Yes, actually that would seem to be the problem. I don’t know. They don’t know. The text freely mentions that the specialists don’t know. That’s how unknown these animals are. Phrases like ‘biologists think’ (of course they do. They have to do something…) and ‘even the people who know about them don’t know a lot’ don’t give you much hope.

I had never heard of any of these creatures, and I dearly hope I don’t meet many of them either. (As for the 280 types of squirrel, I hope Barry Hutchison isn’t reading this.)

Do you know of a one-year-old toddler with a long tail? No, neither do I. Anyway, that’s the size of the Dingiso. Oh… Maybe they mean it’s the size of a toddler, plus it has a long tail?

Hm, that makes sense.

This book should appeal to any child with a sense of humour. Possibly also to ones without, as a plain guide to unusual animals. But it’s the writing you want, accompanied by the illustrations. If any adults were to read aloud to their long-tailed children, they’d probably find it hard. They might laugh too much. (Luckily I don’t have that problem.)

And yes – or do I mean no? – you should not kill musk deer. That, as he points out, is a job for the Yellow-Throated Marten. That one with all the teeth, grinning…

Well, all I can say is that this book wasn’t another boring and worthy book about animals. And while there is a lion in there, like in every single animal book, it’s only there to illustrate the fact that it isn’t in the book. You know.

My fondness for street gangs

As long as the gangs are fictional, since I’m a coward at heart. But don’t you agree that there is something magical about little street urchins ganging up and solving mysteries and generally doing great things?

Two long-standing favourites are Philip Pullman’s stories about the New Cut Gang. I first read them years ago, and now the lovely David Fickling has produced a new one volume collector’s piece, with a great cover by Martin Brown. I especially like the spine, and from now on I will just stand there, staring lovingly at the spine on the shelf.

Philip Pullman, The Adventures of the New Cut Gang

The cynic will say that while Philip doesn’t come up with a new book, someone will have to go back to the old ones and re-issue them. But good ones are always welcome a second time, so I don’t mind. (Although, do get on with Dust!!)

What especially pleases me is that girls are equals in the NCG. Probably fiercer than the boys, actually, which is as it should be. In Thunderbolt’s Waxwork the gang have to sort out who is spreading fake coins, because it certainly isn’t Thunderbolt’s father. And in The Gas-Fitters’ Ball we have not only courage, but romance as well, and a walk-on part for the Prince of Wales (older model).

I believe that Philip almost promised us another New Cut Gang story, in that interview six years ago. I’m starting to despair. But while I wait, there is this new book to enjoy. And a spine to admire.