Once upon a Jungle

This gorgeous picturebook turns the circle of life into a narrative a child can understand. The story follows a jungle food chain, from tiny ants, to mantis, to lizard, all the way up to the fate of a panther. Each animal is dominant on its own page, only to be put into perspective on the next page by its predator. In this way the book demonstrates the importance of each individual creature to the jungle as a whole. It shows how the animals depend upon and enrich each other. The story also frames the concept of death in a positive way. The word ‘death’ is never actually used, but the disappearance of one beast is what gives life to the others. For example, the most intriguing illustration depicts the regal panther as it is consumed by beetles.

The style of every illustration is remarkably effective. The bright colours on a dark background show the beauty of the jungle while maintaining its mystery. Young readers will hunt through the undergrowth for butterflies, frogs, and other creatures not mentioned in the text. The book ends with a more scientific description of a food chain’s basic structure (producers, consumers, etc) and also a reminder of the importance of rainforests as an ecosystem. Therefore this book is suitable for very young readers, but will introduce them to biology and to environmental awareness.