My whale tale
A new children's book aims to alter the fate of the whale, by inspiring young and old alike to take action for nature. By Emma Oldham
As an avid lover of literature and nature, both with equal admiration, writing children's nature stories has been a lifelong ambition of mine. As a child, my mind danced with visions of talking foxes and realms reminiscent of the magical universe found in Brambly Hedge. Now, my aspirations have matured, leading me to weave stories inspired by the real battles waged on our wildlife and the precious planet we call home.
Finding the core of this story was an unexpected one, which developed during the sleep-deprived nights spent nurturing my newborn twins. Amidst the challenges of tandem feeding and the haze of fatigue, I often sought solace in the glow of my phone screen, scrolling through social media. One tweet etched itself into my consciousness, an emotionally charged revelation that stirred something deep within me. In that crucible of pressured motherhood, I acknowledged my helplessness but pledged to remember. Three years later, I fulfilled that promise, revisiting the tweet with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
The tweet portrayed a heartbreaking tableau—a solitary blue dot, a majestic whale, encircled by a sea of orange dots representing boat and vessel traffic. The whale, desperately attempting to feed, succumbed to the overwhelming cacophony of noise pollution and the disruptive presence of countless vessels. Starved of sustenance, the magnificent creature met a tragic end. It was a stark reminder of the perils our natural world faces. I knew what I had to do.
Determined to alter the fate of the whale, I wrote my story in just under twelve minutes. It had quietly been sitting there since my twins were babies, waiting to be written. I was in shock at just how easily it could be scribbled out of my pen, I could barely contain it.
Infusing positivity into my tale, my eldest daughter, Arry, and the remarkable (COAST), emerged as integral pillars. COAST, a community-led organisation instrumental in securing a Marine Protected Area (MPA), played a pivotal role in shaping the backdrop of my story.
The protagonist of my tale isn't a mythical creature or a seasoned environmentalist but a child—a hero with real, tangible powers that every young mind can tap into. In an era marred by eco-anxiety, particularly among the youth, I aimed to instil hope and empowerment. I wanted children to realise their ability to influence their future and the natural world around them.
As a staunch advocate for rewilding, I wanted to introduce this concept to children at an early age, illustrating the transformative power of nature restoration when given the space to breathe, aided by a gentle helping hand from humanity.
As the pages turn, I hope it nurtures the next generation of marine biologists, campaigners, rewilders and political leaders, arming them with confidence and energy to protect our planet.
The Whale Who Disappeared is written by Emma Oldham, and illustrated by William Monteiro.
The story introduces six-year-old Arry, who lives by the sea but knows there is something missing. When Arry finds out about how the oceans used to be – not cluttered with boats and pollution, but teeming with life, she starts a campaign to save the seas.
Inspired by the work of and the charity on the Isle of Arran, this is an uplifting story of hope – and shows how determined action, even from the very young, can unite communities, and help save the planet.
Little Green Space February 2024
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