In a world where more and more children are spending little to no time in nature, authors Caroline Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington are on a mission to bring the outside world inside
Fuelled by their love of nature, the founders of Fine Feather Press, Caroline Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington, decided to put their heads together to create beautifully illustrated children's books for the next generation. Their incredible "sound books" are designed to inspire a love of nature in children from an early age – with an interactive sound bar that plays the calls of animals featured in their books – to create a fun, engaging learning experience for the whole family.
We spoke with Caroline to find out more about this fabulous reading experience.
Growing up, what was your experience with wildlife?
Both Andrea and I spent significant amounts of our childhood in the countryside during an era when you could leave the house in the morning, roam free all day and return when your stomach told you it was time for something to eat.
We want to inspire the next generation to get out, enjoy the natural world and cherish the things they discover there
In those times I ran over sand dunes, collected shells, feathers, rocks and grasses and fed birds and red squirrels straight from the hand (a magical experience that stays with me). On holidays I explored the rivers and fells of the Lake District. I could not spend enough time outside and when you are outside time doesn’t matter.
Why is taking children back to nature so important today?
The realisation that many children are growing up without even a basic knowledge and appreciation of the natural world provides us with our driving force. We’re part of this world and we share it with more than just people. Unless we can get the next generation to engage and respect nature our world will struggle to support us as a species.
As the great Sir David Attenborough said, ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about and no one
will care about what they have never experienced.’
We want to inspire the next generation to get out, enjoy the natural world and cherish the things they discover there.
What got you into wildlife photography?
When we started Fine Feather Press we knew we wanted to focus on natural history titles for children. Also, we realised fairly quickly that we could, with a bit of practice, create a great deal of content ourselves - the world outside is free for all to draw, photograph and record in any way we wish. Our photography has improved over the years, but we still have to ask for help from other photographers for images we can’t take ourselves - humpback whales for example. We never go anywhere without our cameras. There is so much to learn from being outside, every day is different, even if you take the same walk. It is wonderful to watch the seasons change around you. In my view it is a healthy, wholesome experience to be outside at any time of year.
Who are your books for - curious young minds or the whole family?
Although sold as children’s books we have written them in a language that does not talk down to children, as so many books nowadays do. Our sound book series, especially, is a huge success with grandparents who love to share them with their grandchildren.
How are people responding to your books?
Incredibly positively! We have many great reviews particularly for the sound books who are loved by young and old alike. Our titles are now selling around Europe – testament to the fact that there is a huge desire for titles that help rekindle our links with nature.
Why include animal sounds?
Sound brings the images on the page to life. To experience and understand the natural world you need to sharpen all your senses. Each sense can teach you something different.
What do you hope children will take from your books?
We regard what we do as having two benefits: our titles help to bring the natural world to young children in a fun and educational way, and they provide the tools for parents to interact with their children without spending any money and that is extremely rewarding. We hope our books will encourage children to be patient, observant and ever-curious when they are outside, and we hope it will encourage children to respect and protect our natural world.
Do you have a favourite dawn chorus bird, and why?
Most definitely the blackbird. Its clear, melodious song is like no other. Hearing a blackbird sing from a tree-top on a May morning is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.
How vital is marine awareness in the younger generation?Our world is mostly water, we are the Blue Planet. So far we have done little more than exploit and pollute our seas. If we can encourage the next generation to respect the seas more we will all benefit. There is so much still to discover in our oceans. As Jacques Cousteau said, 'The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever'.
What, for you, is the most beautiful sound in the sea?Without doubt whale song.
Finally, what are you working on next?A new nature series, further sound books and lots of other exciting things that you’ll have to keep an eye out for!
The Little Book of Ocean Animal Sounds, RRP £12.99, is available in book stores and online now.
For more information about Fine Feather Press, visit their website.