Hoot and howl across the desert: Life in the world’s driest deserts

by | Jun 2, 2020 | Book Review, Illustrated book, Non-Fiction

Hoot and howl across the desert (cover)

Book Details

Hoot and howl across the desert: Life in the world’s driest deserts
Vassiliki Tzomaka. London: Thames and Hudson, hb, 9 780 500 651 988, 2020, £12.95, 56pp.
Non-fiction, illustrated book, 6+ years

This is a very vivid and original reimagining of the story of Noah’s ark.

She uses her BSc in Chemistry and her MA in Environmental Studies, together with her collection of 300 succulents and cacti, as background to her research on the world’s driest landscapes and their environments, plants and animals. The result is a colourful introduction to 15 desert environments around the world, hot and cold. This is a fascinating exploration and introduces many little known plants and animals, birds and insects showing the abundance of life in places that we often think of as bare and barren. We are introduced to survival tactics, food chains, nocturnal life and all sorts of unexpected aspects of life in these harsh environments. The world perspective is well covered from the Arctic to the Gobi, with a good map outlining hot, coastal, and cold deserts. Dotted throughout are breakout pages exploring in some detail particular plants or animals or aspects of desert life in more detail, like Anna’s Hummingbird from the Sonoran Desert or life in the Acacia tree in the Kalahari. I was particularly fascinated by the information about Sand Dunes and the way they are formed.

The landscapes are beautifully illustrated and the plants and animals are colourful stylized images. These often reflect the particular folk art style of the region, like the alebrijes in Mexico or the aboriginal dot and circle patterns of Aboriginal art.

Review by Pam Dix