For many of us our first introduction to literature involved animals, and often those creatures were the British wildlife we may see out of our windows. Who wasn't read Beatrix Potter's Tales of Peter Rabbit as a child, heart in their mouth as they despair over the cheeky little bunny's dash to escape the garden and Mrs McGregor's rabbit pie?
For me, the book of my childhood was Fantastic Mr Fox. Most nights I would demand to hear the tale of how clever Foxy outwitted the mean farmers. Eventually my parents bought the audio book on cassette so that I could listen at my leisure.
When I had children of my own my mum gave me my old books (I'm not sure whether she'd kept them to pass on to the next generation, or as keepsakes of those treasured times we'd shared lost in the magical land of literature). Just like me, both my girls were fascinated from the start by tales of animals, both classic and modern.
Along with these books came some from my later childhood too, books I'd forgotten about as I'd grown. It was a joy to go back and read these as an adult, I really would recommend that any nature lover read The Last Otter by A. R. Lloyd. With imagery that floats you out into the marshes and swirls you down the river to the sea, this wonderful story takes you into the life of an otter in a way that no nature documentary could.
Later still came Tomorrow is Too Late - A Celebration of our Wildlife Heritage in Aid of the British Wildlife Appeal by the Royal Society of Nature Conservation (now the Wildlife Trusts). I think by this point I was really beginning to understand the plight of our native British wildlife, that of wildlife across the globe, and to understand the importance of nature conservation.
My love of reading about nature continues, with some of my recent favourites being more, erm well, I think political is probably the word. Tony Juniper's What Nature Does for Britain was both uplifting and terrifying in equal parts, and Feral by George Monbiot inspired me to imagine how it could be if we got our forests back. Imagine the wildlife that could roam the land if we gave them back their ecosystems!
My reading wish list grows and grows with the autobiography of one of my childhood heroes, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham, sitting at the top right now. And of course I shall read Inglorious by Mark Avery and Badgered to Death by Dominic Dyer too, just as soon as I feel I shall be able to keep calm and carry on after reading them.
I know that many of us would like to spend all our days in the wild outside quietly watching the natural world go about its business. But books, those lovely bringers of magic, wonder and knowledge, play a huge part in many peoples' passion for, and understanding of nature from their very first bedtime story. I know that I for one, truly cherish them.
My British wildlife bookmarks can be found here to give your books the special treat they deserve.
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