The Happy Hedgerow is a thoughtful exploration of a part of the countryside many of us take for granted. Through lyrical text and beautiful illustrations this lovely picture book reminds us of the wildlife hiding within these bushes and the benefits the humble hedgerow bring to our landscape. The Happy Hedgerow will encourage children to protect these important nature reserves and learn more about the role they play in our natural environment.
In the heart of the countryside Old Oak lives happy and fulfilled next to the barley field. Over the years since Old Oak was a small tree his branches have reached out to the Blackthorn and the Hawthorn alongside him. As time passes their branches have reached each other and come together to form one hedgerow. Old Oak cares kindly for the insect life and small birds who wander through his branches and the creatures who burrow within his roots. The birds carry messages to his friend Beech at the far hedgerow on the other side of the field. The two hedgerows provide shelter and food and protect the field from soil erosion. However one day the farmer pulls up the far hedgerow and Old Oak is dismayed and watches as this action has an impact on the field and its inhabitants. He tries to help but he cannot do it all on his own. Will a new farmer put things right?
This is a beautiful book with a traditional feel that increases the poignancy of the story itself. The text is gentle and full of warmth capturing the sense of Old Oak as a wise and kind father figure to the other inhabitants of the farm. Elena Mannion incorporates the names of the birds and the bushes enabling children to learn to identify them as they read. Erin Brown’s illustrations are gorgeous and depict nature in all its wonder with a rich palette and superb detail. The autumnal hues glow on the page.
This is a valuable picture book and a welcome reminder of the important role our hedgerows have in our natural landscape. From my own experience living in the suburbs I know that our hedgerows have been destroyed for new building projects. Only this year my local community managed to save a small stretch of historic hedgerow from being uprooted. Happy Hedgerow is both a lovely story to share with young children and a way of increasing understanding of the function and importance of this unsung wildlife habitat.
Hedgelink is a partnership that brings everyone interested in hedgerows together, to share knowledge and ideas, to encourage and inspire, and to work with farmers and other land managers to conserve and enhance our hedgerow heritage. They have a range of educational resources that would work well with this book that you can browse on their website. The resources include this comprehensive downloadable worksheet.
I should like to thank the Elena Mannion and Pikku Publishing for my review copy which is going to be an important addition to our family bookshelves. Happy Hedgerow is published on 2nd September and is available to purchase online or via your local independent book shop which can be found on this map.