The winners and finalists of the fourth annual BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, put on by the California Academy of Sciences, were recently announced. Entrants were invited to contribute their photographic work that “celebrated and illustrated the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspired action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery.” Out of 6,100 entries, a handful of glorious photos made the final cut. From adorable pink-faced Japanese macaques who huddle together to keep warm to a firehose of lava gushing from the base of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano into the Pacific Ocean, the glory and astonishment of the natural world were photographed like never before.
Here are 12 spectacular kid’s book that accompany and capture the diversity and inspiration of these prized shots:
by Beth Ferry
Capturing the Wonder of Human/Nature Finalist: “Synchronized Sleepers”
“Synchronized Sleepers” caught sperm whales falling into a vertical slumber. These massive marine creatures spend seven percent of their time taking short naps, drifting non-responsive just below the water’s surface. The book “A Small Blue Whale” from New York Times bestselling author Beth Ferry also captures the wonder and magic of these aquatic beasts. A small blue whale drifts alone at sea, dreaming about finding a friend. Will his wish come true? Or is he destined to a life of solitude? Tidbits of a whale’s characteristics and size are immersed among breathtaking illustrations.
by Owen Davey
Representing the Monkey Business of Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist: “The More the Merrier”
There are 21 species of macaques, a genus of Old World monkeys. Their bright pink faces and inquisitive eyes scream “look at me,” and they’re equally fascinating in temperament and behavior. The Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist “The More the Merrier” shows Japanese macaques huddling together for warmth, forming what’s known as a saru dango, or “monkey dumpling.” Owen Davey’s “Mad About Monkeys” also reveals some of their quirky tendencies, exploring diverse types of monkeys. The bold, striking illustrations keeps things lively for young children.
by Lola M. Schaefer
Depicting the Magic of Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner: “Kamokuna Lava Firehose 25”
A steady stream of lava, called a firehose, suddenly gushed from an underground lava tube at the base of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano and spilled into the Pacific Ocean. The epic shot entitled “Kamokuna Lava Firehose 25” won the coveted Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora category. The excitement of this natural wonder is highlighted from start to island in “An Island Grows”. Children can learn how a volcano forms and how lava contributes to the birth of an island. Bold collage illustrations are a perfect complement to the text and tribute to the winner.
by Emily Hawkins
Portraying the Beauty of Winged Life Winner: “Snow Globe”
North American populations of snow geese have skyrocketed since the ’60s. In Canada, they’re considered overabundant, often forming avian snowflakes in the sky. The Winged Life winner “Snow Globe” shows the brilliance of their flocks. “Little Snow Goose” talks more about this winged beauty, in a story about the unlikely friendship between a mischievous fox cub and a lovable little goose. School Library Journal says, “the illustrations are attractive, with soft colors and slight embossing to add texture.”
by Florence Minor
Replicating the Behavior of Human/Nature Winner: “Pandas Gone Wild”
At a conservation center in China, pandas are bred in captivity with the goal of one day being released into the wild. To prevent them from attaching to their human caregivers, the staff wears costumes that mimic the look and colors of this amazing bear – detailed in the winning image “Pandas Gone Wild”. The educational picture book “If You Were a Panda Bear” introduces various kinds of bears to children, including the beloved panda. Skillfully detailed paintings show the diversity between the species.
by Eric Carle
Showing the Radiance of Terrestrial Wildlife Winner: “Ecosystem”
Click beetle larvae elicit a characteristic green glow much like fireflies, which was captured in the shot “Ecosystem”. Eric Carle, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, brings to life the radiance of the click beetle in the delightful tale about a very clumsy one who can’t seem to stay on his feet. This is a nice little introduction, complete with collage art, that introduces kids to a very unique insect.
by Jennifer Ward
Highlighting the Aquatic Mysteries of Art of Nature Winner: “Sea Jewels”
There are many natural mysteries in the ocean. One was photographed in the winning image “Sea Jewels”. What looks like an organism under a microscope is actually a bucket full of by-the-wind sailors (Velella velella), relatives of the jellyfish. Kids can discover even more ocean treasure in the book “Somewhere in the Ocean”, set to the tune of “Over in the Meadow”. Colorful gouache paintings illustrate each marine creature.
by Holling C. Holling
Revealing the Appetizing Side of Aquatic Life Finalist: “Roundup at Revillagigedo”
A marine ecosystem near the remote Revillagigedo Islands off the west coast of Mexico was memorialized in the shot “Roundup at Revillagigedo”. This image shows the appetizing side of aquatic life, where top predators feed on chub and other fish. The intricacy of a tide pool, including the bountiful circle of life, is also presented in text and pictures through the story of Pagoo.
by April Pulley Sayre
Illustrating the Bear Necessities of Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist: “The Salmon Catchers”
An up close and personal view of a mother grizzly bear and her cub was captured while they were fishing for salmon in Canada’s Yukon River watershed. “The Salmon Catchers” ways are also illustrated in the book “Eat Like a Bear”.
by Rebecca Heller
Supporting the Conservation Efforts of Grand Prize Winner: “Confiscated”
Despite bans that prohibit the sale of items made from endangered species, the trade continues. Inside of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife repository near Denver, Colorado, 1.3 million confiscated wildlife products are on display, including these elephant feet-turned-footstools – a photo that won top dibs in the contest this year. The practice of poaching elephants has reduced their populations by eight percent each year over the last decade. Rebecca Heller has stepped to the conservation plate with her new book “Elephants”. The story follows a baby elephant through his day and a portion of the proceeds benefit Amboseli Trust for Elephants, a non-profit organization that aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa’s elephants.
by Kimberly Ridley
Celebrating the Maternal Instincts of Aquatic Life Winner: “Mantis Mom”
Aquatic Life Winner “Mantis Mom” celebrates the maternal instincts of all creatures including the peacock mantis shrimp which stands guard over her fertilized eggs. “The Secret Bay” reveals the hidden world of estuaries, places where rivers meet the sea and fresh water mixes with salt. Here, tidal backwaters serve as nursery areas for oceangoing fish and other marine critters. Kid-friendly illustrations quickly draw young readers into the ripples of this remarkable story.
by Sneed B. Collard III
Exemplifying the Many Feathers of Winged Life Finalist: “Fearless in the Flames”
In West Bengal, farmers often burn their fields after they harvest their wheat and rice. The practice, while illegal and dangerous, creates a flurry among black drongos. “Fearless in the Flames” shows these winged warriors swooping into the flames to snatch the insects fleeing the burning inferno. In “Beaks” children can explore countless avian species and learn what makes them unique.
Which photo was your favorite? Share in the comments!