Book Review: How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear by Jess French and Angela Keoghan

Child Saving the PlanetIf there was a prize for the book that’s had the most impact in our house this year then this would win it!

How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear introduces the reader to thirteen different habitats – from gardens to mountains – then gives them practical advice about how to protect each one.  Dr Jess French’s tips are really accessible and 5 year-old Martha was instantly hooked by the plight of the wildlife facing extinction – so much so that she decided she was going to make some changes straightaway (no more plastic straws for a start).

As we read the book together, we worked out which of the 70 tips we’d already adopted and made a list of the ones that we still needed to do.  Martha also enjoyed spotting the creatures she recognised and learning about new ones that are depicted in Angela Keoghan’s beautiful illustrations.  There’s so much detail on each page that it’s possible to read it many times over and not get bored.

What astonished me most though was how excited Martha was to protect the planet after finishing the book.  She felt as if she could actually do something to make a difference and the great thing is – she can! (See her garden tips video on our IGTV channel)

Whether you have a future green crusader in your family or just want your kids to become more aware of the environment then I’d highly recommend this title.  It’s essential reading for the next generation.

We were sent a review copy How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear by Jess French and Angela Keoghan (published by Nosy Crow/National Trust). The words and pictures are our own.

 

 

 

Our Top 8 Literary Holiday Destinations

Processed with VSCO with l4 presetAs a bookish family, we like to tie a reading connection into our holidays where possible and love visiting the haunts of famous authors.  Here are our 8 dream literary destinations.

1. The Fairytale Route

This German trail winds through the landmark places that inspired the Brothers Grimm to write their fairy tales (while staying in stunning castles and palaces).  We’d really like to do this while Martha is still young enough to believe in all the stories.

2. Agatha Christie’s Greenway

We’ve visited Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home (now owned by the National Trust) for the day, but it would be amazing to stay over in one of the holiday cottages in the grounds.  Aside from the obvious literary connections, the estate is lovely with beautiful gardens, trails and a boathouse.

3. Frenchman’s Creek

Yes you can stay here! Allegedly the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier’s famous novel, this small cottage is run by the Landmark Trust and is available to rent. First dibs on the treasure!

4. Piazza di Spagna – the Keats connection

Another Landmark Trust property – this time in the centre of Rome overlooking the Spanish Steps.  Keats died on the floor below and this gorgeous rental apartment is identical in layout so he would have looked out on almost the same views as he composed his poems. Pure inspiration.

5. GoldenEye

OK so this one is real lottery winner goals stuff! The GoldenEye resort in Jamaica is most famous for being the spot where Ian Fleming created James Bond but it’s also inspired lots of other creatives.  You can choose to stay in cottages, beach huts or lagoon villas – each in private grounds (we’re not fussy btw).

6. Kardamyli – Paddy’s Paradise

We fell in love with Kardamyli when we visited three years ago.  Travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor chose to settle there after decades of wandering and it’s obvious why. Sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, this pretty town is full of treasures including the supposed tombs of Castor and Pollux and a fortified settlement. Many writers visited Leigh Fermor during his time here and Bruce Chatwin’s ashes were scattered above one of the chapels on the hillside.  We’re hoping to return in 2019 when the Leigh Fermor house will be open for tours.

7. Gladstone’s Library

Anyone up for a retreat? Gladstone’s Library is the UK’s only residential library and if you stay over, you will have the freedom to explore a collection of almost 150,000 printed items.  If I have one wish this year, it’s to stay here for one night (you reading this Al?)

8. Eilean Shona – Neverland

It’s said that Eilean Shona inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan and you can still rent a cottage on this tiny, car-free Scottish island.  Here’s a list of the activities taken from the website – ‘building camp fires, crabbing, swimming, painting, picnicking, kayaking, nature watching, photography and walking’ – we’re in!

I’m sure that there are many that we’ve missed here so please share your recommendations or wishlists with us so we can bookmark them for the future!

 

7 Instagram Tips for Authors

Reader jumping out of a bookAs a keen Instagrammer, I come across author accounts all the time. Some are brilliant, but it’s become increasingly clear that many writers aren’t sure how to max out their pages. As a marketing tool, Instagram involves more effort than Twitter or Facebook but if done well, then it can reap many more rewards because there’s a passionate community of readers (known as bookstagrammers) on this particular platform.  In this post I’ve stuck to 7 basics which should help writers to boost their Instagram accounts.

1. Only Connect

If I could give one recommendation then this would be it.  Explore Instagram and find readers who enjoy reading the type of books you write and read.  Search for your book and/or genre hashtags and like people’s posts. If someone has given you a rave review then comment and seriously consider following them.  You can choose to follow hashtags so I would recommend following your own title (if you’re published) to make sure that you acknowledge positive posts about your book.

How to follow an Instagram hashtag

2. Be A Reader

I’m guessing that you write books because you love reading.  Post about your current and favourite reads as well as the ones which have influenced your writing.  For many people it’s much easier to identify with a reader than a writer.

3. Maximise Your Hashtags

Big hashtags such as #bookstagram and #currentlyreading are good for finding readers but not so great for finding followers because your post is likely to get lost. When you type a hashtag you should see how many times it’s been used. Go for 5 figures and below. Don’t use #follow4follow or any of the spammy hashtags – this will only attract the bots.

4. Share Crisp, Bright Photos

This really needs a post of its own. As a general rule, shoot in natural light where possible or if not, use an app like Snapseed to increase exposure (not saturation). Bookmark photos that you like on Instagram and try to emulate them (credit if it’s an obvious match).

5. Be Consistent

The biggest growing accounts post every day, but very few people have time to do this and to be honest, no one wants to be flooded with tons of material. As a general rule, I would say aim to post quality content at least twice a week with a max of one a day (if you love taking photos).

6. Grow Organically

If you’re a writer then you also have a brand to nurture. Don’t chase likes or numbers, but rather focus on building a quality following that’s made up of people who relate to your content. Similarly, try to follow accounts that interest you.  There’s a lot of emphasis placed on having fewer follows than followers but as long as you maintain an equal balance this is fine.  It’s about connection not game-play which leads me onto a note about the follow/unfollow strategy.

For those of you who aren’t aware of follow/unfollow tactics – it’s where Instagrammers follow lots of accounts (usually small ones) so you’ll follow back and then they unfollow you a few days after in the hope you don’t notice. Please don’t do this! Many account holders are wise to these tactics and it can undermine your authenticity.  Better to build slowly and with integrity – this way you’ll gain many more true fans.

7. Link Up Your Accounts

Make sure that you link your Instagram with your other accounts or at least promote it on your other social media pages.  You can then share content across all platforms which will cut down the time you spend on managing your digital presence.

So for a solid, basic Instagram account – you should be aiming for connection, consistency and clarity.  It takes time to develop something meaningful, but if you do it with heart then your audience will be more likely to listen when you have something important to share.