Like many children, my son headed off to school this morning dressed as a character from his favourite book to celebrate World Book Day. He character of choice this morning was Alex Rider, a teenage spy created by Anthony Horowitz, but int he past he's dressed as Willy Wonka, Harry Potter, and various other characters.

This got me thinking. Who would I have dressed up as if we'd celebrated World Book Day when I was ten years old? It would have been someone nature-related, that's for sure. I don't think there were otter costumes available in 1981, so Tarka the Otter would have been difficult. Likewise, Ratty, Badger or Mole may have been tricky, so no-one from The Wind in the Willows either. Both of these books were instrumental in my developing love of nature as a child, and when I re-read both again in my 30s I enjoyed them just as much.

I think that if I had dressed up as a book character it would have been an explorer. Gerald Durrell, perhaps. I loved reading My Family and other animals, and hearing about his life growing up surrounded by animals. Looking back, I'm sure there were several of his books that I didn't read, but he certainly inspired my love of nature.

More likely, I would probably have dressed as Hal or Roger from the fantastic Willard Price adventure series. For those of who don't remember these books, they followed the adventures of two teenage boys as they travelled though some of the remotest parts of the world in search of rare wildlife for their father's zoological collection, encountering various unfriendly characters who were usually more intent on killing the wildlife instead. There were 14 books in total, and I probably read them all twice. His writing style was infectious and the storylines were perfect for a young naturalist. One day I may find time to read these books again as an adult.

Even from an early age, though, I was more inclined to read fact than fiction, and could often be found with my head deep in a reference book - especially field guides, where to watch guides or atlases. Nothing has changed, and I will still avidly thumb through fieldguides, given the opportunity. My thirst for knowledge is as strong as ever, and I'm just as likely to read the magazines of conservation organisations (including Nature's Home, of course).

There's a wide selection of fieldguides in our shop, covering birds, mammals, insects, flowers and much more

In recent years, however, I have again started to read books. Generally not novels, but some of the excellent nature books that are now available. I recently blogged about Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather, the parallel stories of the establishment of the RSPB and fight for women's rights, for example. Writers such as Mark Cocker, Simon Barnes, Chris Packham and Stephen Moss are popular, and their books are always easy to read, but there are many other books and authors to choose from in our shop.

A selection of the nature writings available in our shop

Returning to the start of this blog, there are, of course, many great nature stories still available for younger readers too. Many of Julia Donaldson's books have a nature theme. I personally love The Ugly Five, a book about five of the "uglier" animals encountered on African safaris, but even stories such as Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo help to bring nature to life for young children. She's far from the only children's author to use nature as a key part of their stories, and we also sell a great selection of children's books in the shop.

Just some of the children's books in our shop

What books inspired your love nature as a child? What nature books are you reading now? I'd love to hear your recommendations.

Anonymous
  • My favourite book was written way back, I think in the 1970’s and the book was called Minsmere Portrait of a Bird Reserve written by Herbert Axcell and Eric Hoskins and as I bought the book from the RSPB it had and has now in my copy, Herbert Axcells and Eric Hoskins autograph. There where no RSPB shops back in the 1970’s at RSPB Shops and of course no online shop or internet then. So everything you ordered from the RSPB had to be done from an RSPB shopping catalogue and then had to be posted either with a Cheque or Postal Order. No easy way of buying items from the RSPB in the 1970’s. Every RSPB member had an RSPB catalogue posted with the Birds magazine which in the 1970’s was published for RSPB members 6 times a year, but not as many pages as the present RSPB quarterly magazine. It’s quite nice reminiscing of the bygone years as many of the RSPB way back.