July 2017

Children’s Author Ellie Jackson’s inspiring debut book proves you are never too young to start making change.

100 million sea creatures every year die due to plastic in our oceans – shocking, depressing, overwhelming and sad – all words that can be used to describe the scale of the problem.  Where do we even begin to start to solve this global disaster? There is not a single part of the ocean, beach, coastline or rocky shore in the world that is left unaffected by this international catastrophe and yet so few of us seem to notice.  It is seen as someone else’s problem, nothing to do with us, out of sight out of mind and yet 70% of all plastic that is in the ocean originated on land where it has been washed out to sea by rivers.  Only 20% comes from boats, and just 10% is rubbish that has been left on the beach by people.  Every single piece of rubbish we see in our parks, playgrounds, streets and along the roads will end up down the drain or washed or blown into the river system where it is carried away to the ocean to spread right the way around the planet.  Marine rubbish is even found in the ice of our frozen seas.  So devastating is the scale of this problem that it has taken until just last month at the UN Coastal Convention for an international agreement to be proposed and accepted.  Plastic in our oceans is an almost daily news event with shocking stories of whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and sea birds found with toxic plastic inside them, causing a long, slow and painful death as their bodies are starved and polluted.  As people are slowly becoming more aware of the scale of this problem, so too are we finding the need for even more education.  How do we reach more people? How do we share this message to our children who have been passed on this terrible legacy from us and previous generations? 

Local author, Ellie Jackson believes that the key message here for children to explain to them the link between plastics in our oceans and the dangers to marine wildlife is through use of a story.  She has written and had illustrated a picture book aimed at 3-8 year olds which tells the true story of Duffy the Sea Turtle and her rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release back into the ocean.  A carefully woven story with stunning illustrations by Australian artist Liz Oldmeadow that bring the plight of sea turtles to life and captures the imagination of young readers, Duffy the Sea Turtle is a book which encourages children and adults alike to question their environment and hopes to inspire people to make changes to the world around them.  Of the world’s seven marine turtle species, five have been recorded in UK waters. They are the Leatherback, Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, Green and Hawksbill turtles. The Leatherback, the largest marine turtle, is the species most frequently recorded in UK waters and all 7 species are globally endangered.

Ellie Jackson and illustrator Liz Oldmeadow, are two mums with 5 children between them who met at mother’s group when their sons were babies.  A chance discussion over coffee led the mums to discover their mutual talents and so began a partnership that after many months of juggling children and other commitments has finally led to Duffy’s message being ready to be shared.  Ellie has lived in Australia for the last 9 years and only recently moved back to the UK.  A teacher and mother of four, Ellie noticed the impact a visit to the Turtle hospital in Townsville, Australia had on her young children and how enthusiastic they subsequently were to pick up rubbish on the beach.  Having studied Environmental Science at university, and teaching Geography for 6 years, it was a natural progression for Ellie to teach her own children the environmental message within this book and the idea for Duffy was born.  Liz is a multi award winning illustrator and photographer from Port Stephens, a coastal town in  NSW,  Australia. Liz has always felt a deep connection to the environment and completed a Bachelor of Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle in 2007. Liz has been working as an illustrator and photographer for more than 10 years, drawing inspiration from Australian wildlife and landscapes.

The book uses child friendly language and an engaging story to deliver a powerful message which aims to allow children a chance for discussion, suggestions for the future and ideas how they can help.  The book and accompanying website www.duffytheseaturtle.com gives a strong educational slant allowing for Duffy the Sea Turtle to be used in schools and pre-schools as part of a wider curriculum.  It is an excellent resource to spark enthusiasm for any discussion surrounding our society’s over-use of plastic – from bags for life to plastic free lunchboxes and reusable water bottles, to home and school recycling and mini beach cleans, Duffy has the potential to be used as a teaching resource for a wide variety of subjects.  There are also suggestions on the website for how to do a mini beach clean with links to resources from Surfers Against Sewage, 2 Minute Beach Clean, Marine Conservation Society and Fathoms Free.  We are also working with a fabulous Cornish artist Zillah Robertson who has so many inspiring and quirky ideas of how to upcycle or get creative with beach rubbish that children find.  

After the recent heatwave, beaches around the UK were packed with people enjoying themselves.  However, many councils and local people reported large numbers of dangerous and unsightly rubbish had been left behind for them to deal with – glass and plastic bottles, BBQs, dirty nappies, broken chairs, umbrellas, tents, buckets, spades and inflatables all became someone else’s problem. The message to pick up after yourself and take your rubbish home is clearly not getting through to enough people and it is our children who will inherit this disastrous legacy.  It is our children therefore who need to be inspired to change their own and their wider families behaviour and it is through stories like Duffy the Sea Turtle where real change can start.  Visit www.duffytheseaturtle.weebly.com to purchase your copy of the book for just £6.99 with a percentage of every sale donated to Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society, #2MinuteBeachClean and Fathom’s Free. You can also find Duffy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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