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Why do Hippos Love Mud?

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Roaaaar! Hoooowl and Grooooowl! Author and Illustrator Yuval Zommer introduces us to some of his favourite characters from his new book The Big Book of Beasts, published by Thames and Hudson this month.

Big Beasts Yuval Zommer

Tell us about your latest book.
This is the second book in ‘The Big Books’ illustrated non-fiction series. The first one was titled The Big Book of Bugs which has already been translated into more languages than I would ever imagine, and buzzed it’s way into many libraries and schools. So I was encouraged by its success to continue with the theme of the animal kingdom.

As you can tell from the cover and title of The Big Book of Beasts I decided to concentrate this book on some of nature’s bravest, wiliest and wildest beasts. Children can learn all about the hairiest, grizzliest, growliest and most fearsome beasts on our planet, from their jaws right down to their claws! It is packed with facts about how the different beasts eat, hunt and survive in the wild. You can also find answers to many important questions such as ‘Why do wolves howl at the moon?’, ‘Do hyenas really laugh?’ and ‘Why do hippos love mud?’

What’s are your ‘Top five beasts’ from the book?
Although the book features many well-known all-time favourites (such as lions, bears, tigers and wolves), for ‘My favourite five beasts’ I decided to highlight the smallest, lesser known characters who are also featured in the book. They may not be in the ‘famous five’ but each is awesome in its own way! And as I hope children will pick up, it’s not how large you are that determines how brave and amazing you can be.

So in no particular order:

1. The Armadillo
It’s such a wonderfully odd-looking animal. Although covered with tough protective armour, it can still manage to roll itself into a hard ball, dig tunnels and lick up ants with a long sticky tongue.

Big Beasts Armadillo spread

2. The Honey Badger
It’s real name is Ratel and it’s so fierce that nothing and no one gets in his way. It can hypnotise a nest of bees till they are stunned and can wrestle deadly desert snakes!

3. The Tasmanian Devil
This animal may look cute with it’s black and white markings but its powerful jaws can crunch right through bones, it makes a spine-chilling screech when in danger and can even turn it’s ears bright red.

4. The Porcupine
A spiky character who can rattle and puff up its quills to protect itself from other forest animals. This one is a rodent like no other!

Big Beasts Porcupiness pread

5. The Weasel
Last but by no means least. It may be the smallest meat-eating mammal but a weasel is a sneaky, cunning, strong and a ruthless hunter, never to be underestimated ruthless hunter.

What’s next for ‘The Big Books’ series?
The Big Book of Bugs is now followed by The Big Book of Beasts so as you can see there’s a certain pattern going on here (Clue: it’s to do with the letter B). All I can say is there will be another book to complete the trilogy, it will also take its inspiration from the natural world and as ever I will be striving to combine picture-book charm with informative non-fiction. I am really looking forward to working on the next title because I get to discover and learn just as much as the readers when researching a new book!