5 Minutes With…Ellie Jackson

Ellie Jackson is an author who has written a series of children’s books about the impact of man made pollution on the environment and the wildlife within it. Ellie’s books bring to life the reality of plastics and other similar products on our environment.

Ellie is a former teacher and a passionate campaigner, and is now working with a number of schools and libraries nationwide to spread the Wild Tribe message.

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Thanks for your time today Ellie, can you tell us a bit about your books.

My first book, Duffy’s Lucky Escape was inspired by our time spent living on a tropical island in Australia where my young children and I saw a turtle being released back into the ocean after a year of treatment for ingesting plastic.

We were all transfixed by the sight of this beautiful creature being set free, and subsequently visited a turtle hospital on the mainland to find out more. Once my children had made the link between turtles and plastic they were running round the beaches picking up rubbish and felt that with every piece they picked up they were saving a turtle’s life.  The book follows this story and also gives ideas and suggestions for how children can help make a difference.Page Images web (1)

What’s your background? 

I spent my childhood holidays developing my love of nature on the Pembrokeshire beaches amongst the seals and the seabirds and every spare weekend we spent as a family outdoors camping or walking. My first attempt at writing children’s books was about my childhood experiences of adventure and animals but this was rejected by the publishers.  I later studied Environmental Science at university and went on to become a Geography teacher for 6 years.  

Ultimately it was a love of the outdoors that led to my husband and I moving permanently to Australia where we lived for over 8 years with our growing family. My first published book Duffy’s Lucky Escape, took two years to complete due to the demands of young children, however I am glad we made sure we had got it right as I am incredibly proud of the impact this book is having.

You are involved in a number of other events to campaign and take action against environmental  impacts, can you tell us a bit about those campaigns, and what you have coming up in the next few months?

Plastic straws are a perfect example of how we have all become so used to something that we don’t even give it a second thought.  We order a drink in a cafe or bar and it arrives with a straw – did we ask for it? No. Do most of us need it? Probably not. It is an easy thing we can all do which makes a real difference to our environment.  

Millions of straws are found washed up on beaches around the world and they can have a devastating impact on wildlife. If we all refused the straw then we are all helping to reduce the amount of plastic which is ending up in our seas.  

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My books are being used in schools and preschools around the world as a springboard into developing the children’s learning about the issue of ocean plastics and it is a natural progression for the children to want to make a difference.  I have seen how teachers are harnessing the children’s motivation and inspiration to write letters to local businesses asking them to stop serving plastic straws.  Once the problems of straws has been explained to the business owner they are mostly very happy to stop serving plastic straws. Our local town is very quickly on track to becoming the first plastic straw free town in the UK and hopefully can show other towns how it can be done.

I have seen schools organise beach cleans, litter picks, introduce recycling, work towards Eco-Schools awards and write letters to local businesses and governments.  All from the power of a simple true story which sparks the enthusiasm of the children and teachers.

Your books are now appearing in more and more schools, libraries, museums and similar locations, what sort of feedback have you had from readers and supporters?

I have had teachers tell me their children have never been so engaged in writing before – particularly the boys! Preschool teachers have told me that in all their years of teaching, they have rarely seen a book have such an impact on children before. Now as a teacher myself I can’t tell you how rewarding that is to hear!

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Not only is is great for schools though it is also perfect as a bedtime story with parents or grandparents and I know that even very young children are talking about Duffy at home with their families asking their parents to make changes to their own lives – “Recycle this Daddy to save the turtles” or “Don’t drop that rubbish Mummy as it could hurt the turtles”. Soon these kind of actions become a habit for the whole family.

It’s great to see that Welsh is the first translated language for your books! Tell us about how that came about.

I got in touch with The Darwin Centre charity in Pembrokeshire asking if they would like to use the book in any of their education programs and mentioned that I would like to get the book translated into Welsh.  They offered to translate the book and also sponsor copies to go into all the schools in Pembrokeshire.  

To have an entire region all learning about the issue at once, and in the language of their country, has enormous potential to spark the enthusiasm needed to make the changes our ocean so desperately needs us to make.  They also put me in touch with one of their partner centres in Kenya and now I am getting the book translated into Swahili and will be sending copies out there.  I also have Indonesian, Hindi, Mandarin and Filipino as well as many European languages being worked on by passionate people around the world.

My second book called Marli’s Tangled Tale draws inspiration from the Pembrokeshire coastline as it follows the true story of a puffin who gets entangled in balloons.  I am also working with campaigners No Straw Stand to introduce the books to Cardiff to inspire the city to stop serving plastic straws.

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What are your plans for the future? Do you want to write more books about environmental impact?

The books form part of my Wild Tribe Series of books aiming to bring environmental issues such as ocean plastics, balloon litter, ghost fishing gear etc down to the children’s level. Each book has a well loved animal who gets into trouble and needs the help of people.  They are engaging stories with beautiful illustrations with happy endings and are perfect for children aged 2-10. SYMAGES-SYMAGES-CF5R0228_1 (1)

My next book is due out at the end of April and is about a seal who gets trapped in old fishing nets. I have several other books in my head ready to go as sadly there is an ever growing list of global environmental issues that are important for our children to learn about.  We cannot show young children images of turtles covered in blood with straws in their nostrils, or seals caught with fishing nets cutting into their necks – these are distressing enough as adults to see and we don’t want to overwhelm or depress children about the issues. Yet if we don’t teach our children about this whilst they are young then by the time they are adults and making their own choices the habits which are damaging our environment will be harder to change.

I worked with Keep Britain Tidy and Linda Thomas Eco Design for the launch of my second book, Marli’s Tangled Tale about a puffin who gets tangled up in balloons after a balloon release. My daughter wore a dress created by Linda Thomas Eco Design which was made entirely out of balloons which had been collected from beaches around the UK by the 2 Minute Beach Clean community. Balloons are a huge problem for marine wildlife which can get tangled up in the ribbons or mistake them for food.

My book teaches children about this issue and suggests alternatives for them to try. The local school children all took part by holding up 99 Dead Balloons and were featured in the local and national news to help raise awareness of this issue.

How can people keep in touch with your projects or buy a book?

I have grown awareness of this book using social media first and foremost and it has been a real inspiration to see so many parents, teachers and educators passionate about teaching our children about these issues.  You can order my books which are £7.99 each from my website www.wildtribeheroes.com and I can sign and dedicate the books for you. Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @wildtribeheroes to find out all the latest news and competitions.

The books are also supported by and stocked with Surfers Against Sewage, 2MinuteBeachClean, MCSUK, National Museum Cardiff, London Zoo, National Trust, independent bookshops and gift shops as well as many online retailers, but I am always looking for new stockists so please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about this opportunity.

I am currently looking to work with local businesses who would be willing to sponsor copies of the books going into their local schools – I have had donations from printers, wildlife charities, waste businesses and passionate community members and could be as few as one or two copies per school. By working together to provide inspiration and motivation for change, there is hope for the future of our planet.

Thanks so much for your time Ellie! 

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