Happy Stories for Nature Lovers

Happy Stories for Nature Lovers
Dawn Casey and Domenique Serfontein
Ivy Kids

Watching the Earth Prom on TV today I heard Chris Packham say this: “Now is the time to ask what we need to do for wildlife. We know we are on the brink, … but there is still hope … we can stop the loss of millions of species but we have to understand the need to change what we do, to accept and celebrate that change – we need to do it together with tolerance and kindness, because ultimately we are one species on one very special planet with one very big problem and one last chance to sort it out. Now is the time for ALL of us to make a difference.”
Author Dawn Casey writes in her introduction to this book of an environmentalist, Joanna Macy, who talks of the fact that more and more people are indeed taking action in response to nature’s needs, calling this shift ‘The Great Turning’.

The eight narrative non-fiction stories herein are examples telling how individuals and conservation bodies have made a difference to wild life in various parts of the world. We read of young Anna who, on account of her love of trees, was responsible for the founding of the Children’s Forest movement by passing on her passion to her pupils. 

A grandpa talking to his grandson outlines how the Humpback whales were rescued from the brink of extinction. In the 1930s only 440 were left but with the banning of hunting and killing of whales for commercial gain in 1986, their numbers have grown to 25,000.

Intensive farming methods with their use of pesticides and the destruction of hedges and trees have created green deserts in many parts of the world. However in Nature’s Plenty we learn how a farming couple in Normandy, Charles and Perrine followed their dream of growing healthy food for their family. Starting small, they bought a field and without the use of machinery, by feeding the soil only natural things, replanting hedges and planting crops for their mutual benefit, developed over the years a rich ecosystem of pastures, pools, orchards and hedges. This aroused the interest of scientists who came to see and were vastly impressed to discover the amount of food the farm grew on so small an area of land. Now the couple help others learn to farm in a similar low impact manner.

These and the other five examples, stylishly illustrated by Domenique Serfontein, should give young readers cause for hope and will surely inspire them to take action in whatever ways they can. The final spread offers some suggestions of how we might all walk more gently upon the earth.

My Nana’s Garden

My Nana’s Garden
Dawn Casey and Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Templar Books

This is one of the most beautiful picture books about love and loss I’ve seen in a long time.

The little girl narrator visits her beloved grandmother through the different seasons of the year. Together they savour the joys of the tangly weeds or ‘wild flowers’ as Nana insists; harvest the bounties of fruit trees and wonder at the wealth of minibeasts and small animals that find their way among the jungle of brightly coloured flora.

There’s a crooked tree that’s home for an owl and a multitude of other creatures.

Evening is a lovely time too with both starlight and light from their bonfire to illuminate them as the two snuggle up together and bask in the warmth.

In late summer there’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables and seeds to collect,

but with the onset of autumn Nana starts to look frail.

Come winter it’s clear that like her garden, Nana is fading, letting go her hold on life and by the time her garden is clad in snow, only a robin sits on her chair. (A nod to John Burningham by Jessica perhaps there.)

The wheel of life never stops turning and eventually a tiny snowdrop peeps through. The little girl realises, that along with that revolving circle, her precious memories go on and on. Grandma is still there in the blossom on the trees, the smiling faces of the flowers, the starlit bonfire and in the wild abundance of all that flourishes in her garden. A garden that is now a refuge too, and a place wherein we see evidence of other changes in the narrator’s family.

Tremendous sensitivity is inherent in both Dawn’s lyrical rhyming text and the rich tapestry of flora and fauna and the Nana/child relationship shown in Jessica’s illustrations, which together epitomise that ‘a garden is a lovesome thing’.

Held in Love

Held in Love
Dawn Casey and Oamal Lu
Lincoln Children’s Books

If you’re looking for a book to give as a gift to a new mother and child, or at a naming ceremony, here’s one that fits the bill perfectly. Equally it could serve as a bedtime lullaby.

Billed as ‘A mother’s blessing’, Dawn Casey has penned a softly spoken, lilting entreaty that any parent (or grandparent) could share with an infant.

Herein we have a mother talking to her baby.

Beginning with the universe and thence the galaxy and the world, each double spread moves inwards to a home wherein a mother, child nestling in her arms is reading.
She asks for joyfulness in movement, generosity, gratefulness, musicality with ears that can hear both song and silence,

playfulness and the ability to forgive and forget.

Finally we’re taken full circle to the universal with these heartfelt words: ‘May your eyes look to the stars and know that you are held in the arms of the universe … and held in love.

Complementing the beautiful, soulful words are debut picture book illustrator Oamul Lu’s warm-hearted scenes of maternal love, of a growing child and of serene natural landscapes. I just wish he hadn’t used those googly eyes that seem to be used in so many picture books at present.

A Bus Ride and A Lullaby for a Little One

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The Bus Is For Us!
Michael Rosen and Gillian Tyler
Walker Books
But best is the bus.The bus is for us.’ is the oft-repeated refrain linking the various possibilities entertained by the narrator of this book. A small boy enjoys riding his bike; others like journeys by car or train, horse riding, floating in a little boat or a trip in a big ship,

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would love to ride a fish, sit on a cloud or dangle from a kite, play in a sleigh, perhaps try even more daring modes of transport

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but no matter what, the bus is best and by the end, readers are in no doubt about why.
The combination of Rosen’s shortish, playful rhyming text and Gillian Tyler’s delightful portrayal of the cast of a dozen young characters- not to mention the shaggy dog – who, as the story concludes at the end of the day,

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have all boarded the bus, is great fun.

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A Lullaby for Little One
Dawn Casey and Charles Fuge
Nosy Crow pbk
As the sun goes down the Little One of the title is in the woods with Big Daddy Rabbit but, he tells his offspring, there is still time for some fun and games before bedtime. So together the two of them race and chase and shout, “Woo-hoo!”, then other animals enthusiastically join them in a game of hide-and-seek, some splashing and sploshing

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and as the sun begins to set, they all dance and sing, whirl, twirl, and shout together before ending up in a great big heap. Whereupon a thoroughly exhausted Little One utters a “BOO-HOOOOOO!” and Big Rabbit knows just what to do next …

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And finally, father and baby rabbit snuggle together in the moonlight. Aaahh!
Dawn Casey’s rollicking rhyming text combined with Charles Fuge’s gorgeous georgic watercolour scenes make for a warm-hearted bedtime read for the very young.

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