Ten years ago, nonfiction books about animals would feature a block of text on one page with a second-rate photo on the opposite page. Then came the trend -- still popular -- of having several text boxes, a few photos, several captions, and maybe a "fun facts" box -- the busy look catering to the short-attention-span crowd. But recently, a new generation of books is putting more focus on the photos, with amazing results. Here are a few series to look for, each with a representative book featured.
Face to Face with Dolphins
by Flip and Linda Nicklin
Wonderful photos fill whole pages, drawing you into the scene. But with National Geographic as the publisher of this series, we can expect pretty pictures. What is special about this book is how the photographer recounts his experiences taking the pictures and yes, it makes more of a connection to the photo of the Amazon River dolphin when we know that this was the dolphin that was playfully nibbling at his ankles as he shot the picture. There are lots of the usual facts about dolphins too, but the text has a personal, almost conversational touch to it. The book has little sections throughout How to Swim Like a Dolphin, How to Speak Dolphin that allow the reader to copy the dolphin's style for a little fun and games. The series, Face to Face with Animals, also investigates sharks, lions, frogs, penguins, orangutans, wild horses, cheetahs, gorillas, and more.
Parrots (The Wild World of Animals)
by Jill Kalz
The text is pretty standard, informational stuff -- but the photos are spectacular! One huge, stunning, no-borders, full-page picture, with text in a box over the photo itself. Some of the pictures fill up the two-page spread. Now with a subject as colorful as parrots, this style is exceptionally stunning, but you'll also relish the chance to explore many other topics in the series, The Wild World of Animals, including koalas, lions, dolphins, and swans. The series has been around for a while, so you'll want to look at the redesigned books published in 2006 or later.
Butterflies and Moths
by Nic Bishop
Amazing photography, interesting facts, and fantastic design makes these books standouts among the standouts. In this title, Nic Bishop gives us magnified photos of moth eggs and caterpillar legs. Or was it the other way around? Either way, stunning camera work. At the end of the book, Bishop shares stories about how he captured some of the best shots, including a story of a last-minute flight to Costa Rica to see a particularly rare caterpillar before it turned to a pupa. He takes his time with each book, so only two other titles -- Spiders and Frogs -- are available now. Another, Marsupials, comes out in the fall.