Wild Lives by Ben Lerwill and Sarah Walsh: 50 Extraordinary Animals that Made History - book review -

Wild Lives
Wild Lives
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Travel writer Ben Lerwill and ‘animal-obsessed’ illustrator Sarah Walsh have combined their considerable talents on this captivating collection of fifty extraordinary creatures from across the globe who have helped to make our world that little bit more special.

We’ve all read stories about humans who have made their names as pioneers, explorers and heroes, but what about the amazing animals who have also made their mark in the history books?

Travel writer Ben Lerwill and ‘animal-obsessed’ illustrator Sarah Walsh have combined their considerable talents on this captivating collection of fifty extraordinary creatures from across the globe who have helped to make our world that little bit more special.

These heartwarming, surprising and often emotionally powerful stories of bravery, discovery and friendship – ideal for children aged between five and eight – feature a range of animals, from heroes and helpers to adventurers and achievers, and introduce young readers to some of the most famous and unforgettable animals of all time.

From Dolly, the cloned sheep, to David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee to trust primatologist Jane Goodall, and from Lonesome George, the last of Ecuador’s Pinta Island native tortoises, to Huberta, the hippo that in 1928 walked almost 1,000 miles from her homeland in the St Lucia Estuary in Zululand to the Eastern Cape, these are animals whose stories will astound and delight.

Categorised under the headings, Rescue and Protect, Adventure and Explore, Change and Solve, Discover and Pioneer, and Inspire and Influence, these accounts show how animals have helped with scientific discovery and development, influenced our relationship with the natural world, furthered our understanding of social behaviour and interactions, and in some cases saved our lives.

Say hello to Endal, the dog who saved his owner’s life. Endal was a golden Labrador who lived in England with Allen Parton, who was injured during the Gulf War and needed Endal’s assistance. One dark evening in 2001, Allen and Endal were going along the pavement when they were hit by a speeding car.

Allen was knocked out of his wheelchair but Endal moved Allen into a position where he could breathe easily, covered him with a blanket and then barked to attract attention. Endal’s quick thinking saved Allen’s life.

Meet Koko, the gorilla who learned to speak in sign language. Koko was born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and soon after was visited by Dr Penny Patterson, a student trying to discover more about student behaviour.

Penny started showing Koko how to use sign language and soon she became so good at it that she was moved to the university where Penny worked. By the time Koko was fully grown, she could understand around 2,000 spoken words and use over 1,000 different hand signs for things like ‘flower’, ‘love’ and ‘sorry’.

Winter was a dolphin who lost her tail at two months old after getting it tangled in a crab net on the coast of Florida. Without her tail, she found it very difficult to swim, so a specialist made a bionic tail for Winter and, slowly but surely, she was swimming properly again. Millions of people heard Winter’s story on the news, and she brought hope to people who had their own difficulties to overcome.

And champion racehorse Seabiscuit was a cultural icon in America in the 1930s and 40s where fans mobbed tracks just to watch his workouts. A man named Charles Howard saw something special in Seabiscuit, a smaller than normal racehorse with knees that didn’t bend properly, and with the help of Tom Smith, a horse trainer, and Red Pollard, a jockey, they helped Seabiscuit become the fastest racehorse in America.

With Lerwill’s fascinating and moving fact-filled stories and Walsh’s sensitive and visually arresting illustrations, plus archive photographs and documents throughout, Wild Lives is the perfect introduction to just some of the amazing animals whose wild lives have made history.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £16.99)