As I was growing up, I had a heat-bursting desire to go on safari in Africa, fuelled, in part, by my favourite TV shows like Daktari and Kimba the White Lion. Fast forward 20 years and my 6-year-old daughter is gifted a copy of Jan Latta’s Diary of a Wildlife Photographer, and her fascination with Africa begins. I admit to harbouring misgivings about the rather text-heavy content, but what I didn’t foresee was the lasting impression this book would have on my daughter, as she flipped through the pages of beautiful animal photography and interesting details about them. It was a book she returned to, on her own, for years to come. She was in awe of Jan.
Fast forward anther 20 years and who would have dreamed that Jan and I would share involvement in the same writing networks and become friends? My daughter is impressed! Jan is a prolific author, whose fourteen True to Life Books bring into focus the world’s endangered animals in a way that is accessible and delightful for children. It’s brilliant narrative non-fiction.
Jan’s new book, Adventures in the wild with Jan Latta, is different. It’s a tour with Jan through the sights, sounds and smells of Africa as she takes the reader on safari with her. This is a record of her 11th trip to Africa earlier this year, to photograph wild animals for her True to Life story books, and she reflects upon experiences from her other trips too. It’s aimed at a young readership and makes a great companion to her other books.
Each page of this adventure book is alive with her photographs of animals, bursting with colour and personality. The anecdotes of her safaris draw the reader into the moment. Jan’s evocative writing style allows the reader to experience the rich texture of Africa using all the senses.
Hippos, it seems, are an explosion of senses – literally! Giving out ‘soft, contented musical notes,’ munching as they nibble grass, loud angry honking and farting, not to mention the swish of dung into their neighbour’s faces. Delightful! Oh- and be careful where you tread when you get out of the tent in the morning or you might just step in something soft and stinky!
I enjoyed reading about Jan’s reaction to her adventures: the difficulty of photographing Zebra’s, for instance, or the fear of walking past lions to get to her tent at night, or the thrill of watching a hunt. It is a wildlife book, and there are a few shots of big cats eating their prey. Jan acknowledges the seeming cruelty from our viewpoint, but emphasises the need for the animal’s survival.
With comments like: ‘At night, owls make a soft, hooting sound, contrasting with the roar of the lions. It’s all part of the orchestra of the sounds in the night.’ (P56) it makes me wonder how Jan ever got some sleep with all the ruckus! And makes me glad that she has done the adventuring for me and I can sit back and enjoy reading about it from the comfort and safety of my cosy sofa!
The book has interesting headings like ‘How to get close to a lion without being eaten,’ and it’s set out in neat chapters for each animal, moving from lions, through elephants, the big migration, leopard, zebra, cheetah, giraffe, birds and other interesting creatures.
As I mentioned above, Adventures in the Wild with Jan Latta is a brilliant addition to read alongside her True to Life books to extend learning and give a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences that went into making them.
At the end is a helpful compendium of useful information if you wanted to recreate her trips, or foster an elephant, as Jan has done for many years.
If you wanted hear Jan talk first hand about her adventures, she gives fascinating author talks for schools - check out her website for details. http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au/ Failing that, this book is the next best thing.
Also, to celebrate the launch of Adventures in the Wild with Jan Latta, Jan is giving an author talk at Gordon library (details below) and running an art competition (you may not know that Jan is a celebrated artist too!).
Art entry details download here:
You can buy Jan's book from The Children's Bookshop, Beecoft, and Lindfield Bookshop, from July 1st, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. RRP for the hard cover is $24.99 and Paperback $ 19.99.