This month we’re thrilled to have published Time to Move South for Winter – a breathtaking narrative non-fiction book about incredible animal migrations, written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie.
And today we’re delighted to share a blog from Clare on the origins of this beautiful new book.
Coming up with ideas is the easy bit for me where creating books for children is concerned. Ideas are everywhere – places I go, people I meet, words I hear, things I see. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to write them all.
But I am not, for one minute, suggesting that writing is easy!
One part of the process that can be especially difficult is turning these ideas into stories, with compelling characters, engaging plots and satisfying endings. Occasionally, ideas appear fully formed – with a character and clear arc. Other times, I have to work harder to find the angle.
Time to Move South for Winter had been in my ‘to write’ collection for a while. It started life as a phrase in the note pages on my phone – ‘summer on the wing.’ My nan, who is a huge inspiration to me, gave me a notebook of poems she collected when she was a primary school teacher. I was so touched – it’s full of all the classroom rhymes, poems and ditties she shared with her students, all diligently written out in her handwriting.
As I pored over the pages, one line stood out – ‘summer on the wing.’ I often take inspiration from our wonderful language and the beautiful visuals it conjures. I began researching bird migration and was soon lost in the fascinating world of the Arctic tern, which makes the longest migration of any animal from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again each year. I love the thought of being able to inspire young readers to love nature.
And there was my angle! An educational but entertaining story about an Arctic tern embarking on her annual winter migration, who discovers lots of other animals moving south for winter, too.
At the time I’d been reading and writing a lot of non-fiction narrative texts and I felt this idea lent itself to being a story based in fact. I envisaged that it would be poetic, lyrical, almost whimsical in tone as the tern completed her long journey, but I was determined it would also communicate awe and wonder about the natural world, encouraging and inspiring children to read and learn more. Narrative non-fiction texts fire up the teacher in me. When I worked as a primary school teacher, I would hang learning on a book wherever possible. I love writing stories that can be used as springboards for further learning, and this was very much in the forefront of my mind as I wrote – something beautiful but meaningful, too.
My life experiences have a funny way of filtering into my stories. Alongside the involvement of my nan, my dad was also a big inspiration for this book. My dad, who loves birds, has been to North America and travelled up the Northwest Passage to the mountains and glaciers in Alaska where he saw humpback whales, which feature in the book. (He says they were quite tricky to catch on camera!)
My dad’s photo of a humpback whale in Alaska (above).
I knew from the very start this would be a book he’d love. Time to Move South for Winter is dedicated to him. Here he is receiving his advance copy on Father’s Day.
(I was right, he did love it!)
The text has been stunningly illustrated by Jenny Løvlie who says the Arctic terns are her favourite bird. She grew up by a large colony of terns on Ekkerøy, Norway, and has described the project as a dream come true but honestly, the honour feels all mine. We can’t wait to share it!
In short, Time to Move South for Winter started like many other of my texts – as a foggy idea on the fringes of my creative mind. With thanks to the influences and inspirations from family, teaching and the research that enlightened me to the animal migrations on our planet – plus my agent, Alice, and all the Nosy Crow team – it became a story!
And one we are all very proud of, indeed.
Take a look inside the book: