5th March 2019
Carolyn Hughes shares her favourite nature and woodland books for World Book Day on Thursday, 7th March.
World Book Day is a brilliant charitable initiative which encourages children to dress up as their favourite story characters and talk about their favourite books. There's really nothing like sitting down with a story that pulls you in and helps you switch off from the rest of the world.
While parents sometimes dread the thought of last-minute costume making, it's so important to develop a love of reading in a child - and a love of reading about nature is even better in our book!
To celebrate and support World Book Day we have put together some nature-inspired reads to encourage everyone to enjoy reading.
The Lost Words
Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris's The Lost Words was created to ensure that future generations remember words of nature that are being lost and replaced with new words about technology.
The book of 'spells', instead of poems, are illustrated by Jackie Morris with beautiful pictures of British animals, insects and plants that make our countryside so wonderful. A portion of the profits goes to Action for Conservation. This is a wonderful book that you can dip in and out of, with or without children.
The Faraway Tree books
This is a series of books by classic children's author Enid Blyton about a group of children who discover magical lands and fantastical characters high in the branches of an old magical tree.
The series of four books was begun in 1939, and continues to be popular with children today. No one can forget the adventures in the enormous tree and its inhabitants Moonface, Silky and the Angry Pixie. It's lovely to be able to read a story to children that you have enjoyed yourself as a child.
It's also a very easy reader so perfect for youngsters who are just starting to read to themselves.
My Neighbour Totoro
I'm not sure if this is cheating as this beautiful story is originally a 1988 Japanese anime film, but you can also buy an illustrated novel. The Japanese film tells the story of two sisters who move house with their father, while their mother is in hospital. The younger sibling, Mei, makes friends with a very cute, but enormous, magical forest spirit called a Totoro. Trees and the woodland are a very important part of the narrative and we're told that the tree spirits look after the girls.
This is a beautiful and very gentle story, perfect for primary school age children and over.
The History of Bees
This debut novel from Maja Lunde tells the story of three different people in three different times, all revolving around the decline of bees. One of the stories is set in China, where a young couple, Tao and Kuan, are forced to hand-pollinate trees in order to grow fruit, as bees are now extinct. The other two threads see William, a biologist in Victorian England, trying to create a better beehive and George, a beekeeper in the US in 2007 starting to see declining numbers of bees.
This is a really important message about how vital it is to look after bees and other pollinators, but with an enthralling narrative too. Highly recommended.
Wilding: The return to nature of a British farm
This is a truly gripping account by Isabella Tree (with her fantastically apt name) of how she and her husband decide to 're-wild' their Sussex estate after realising that it was unprofitable as agricultural land.
We see how intensive monoculture farming has stripped the land of its natural biodiversity and left their ancient oak trees in very poor health. They battle with neighbours and the authorities to allow the land to re-balance itself with very little intervention from humans.
Now the estate is not only a highly commended project being used as a blueprint for similar projects, but also a safari and campsite. Isabella is a natural storyteller (and was already a writer as well as a farmer) and makes us realise just how much of our landscape has been damaged by agriculture, but also how swiftly it can right itself if we allow it to.
The Wild Remedy
Emma Mitchell's hand-illustrated diary takes us through a year in nature, in the Cambridge Fens. She has suffered with depression for 25 years, but having moved to the countryside she charts how noticing what the local flora and fauna are doing begins to lift her mood and heal her soul.
In the March entry, she notes how the hawthorn leaves emerge, the cherry plum trees blossom and the blackthorn trees erupt with their tiny bright white flowers. In the April chapter, there's a beautiful passage about how Emma reads research that has found how the presence of birds can help to lift depression so takes her children out to buy bird feeders and bird food.
This is a fascinating account combining information and research about depression, soothing observations about nature and the healing process of mental illness.
Tweet us with your favourite books about woodland and nature, so we can share them and hopefully find out some new good reads.