I recently (virtually) met with children’s author and marine conservation enthusiast Richard Shore to talk about his popular series – Hurrahtum Adventures! I wanted to know more about why he writes educational children’s books and the role they can play in inspiring future conservationists and ocean lovers. As well as more about his brand new book ‘The Tangled Tuna’ which explores the important, but often ignored, issue of ghost fishing gear. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!
What inspired you to start writing children’s stories?
I’ve written professionally since I was 16. But it wasn’t until I moved from the UK to Ireland in 2009 that I thought about writing children’s books. My children were two and four years old and loved books, and I loved too reading bedtime stories. So one day, a light bulb went off in my head – I thought why not write a short, adventure book series for each of my children?
And that’s how it started. For my daughter, I created Hurrahtum Adventures!, for my son – Will’s Wild Adventures. Originally, I printed out the book pages, hand drew illustrations, and bound the books with covers. They now have three books each tucked away in their bedtime cabinets. Hopefully one day they can read them to their children, and inspire them to write their own stories.
Can you briefly explain the concept of the Hurrahtum Adventures! Series?
Hurrahtum Adventures! features Lucy, a girl living by the sea, who has amazing adventures when she says the word “Hurrahtum!”. The word magically makes a cove and boat appear, which she has many exciting adventures with. So far, Lucy has helped a stranded surfer, discovered a birthday present, reunited a seal pup and rescued tuna caught in a discarded fishing net.
What is your newest book ‘The Tangled Tuna’ about?
One summer’s day, Lucy notices what she thinks are fish, but acting strangely. Shouting the magic word “Hurrahtum”, she speeds to the area aboard Firedrake to find five beautiful tuna, all tangled in a discarded fishing net. Lucy sets about rescuing the tuna, and has an inventive surprise at the end of the book that sweeps her off her feet! It’s an inspiring, exciting and adventurous tale, vibrantly illustrated, that highlights ocean plastic pollution, in particular ghost fishing.
Why is ghost fishing something that you feel passionate about?
I was researching ocean pollution and discovered many years ago about the damaging effects of ghost gear from the commercial fishing industry. Despite it being a major ocean polluter, there seemed little awareness of it. It was incredibly frustrating to hear of ocean creatures being caught and killed unnecessarily, and then the gear being broken down into microplastics causing further harm. With this knowledge, it felt it was a positive move to highlight ghost fishing in The Tangled Tuna.
What do you hope your young readers take away from your new book?
I genuinely hope they have a mix of feelings. Apart from enjoying an adventure that offers excitement and a courageous character, I believe they will have more awareness of what’s happening in our oceans right now, and importantly, be inspired to do something positive about it as they grow older.
How important do you think children’s books like yours can be in inspiring future scientists & conservationists?
I believe it is important to educate and inspire people at the earliest possible stage in their life. They then have the best opportunity to do something positive – because they have the time and knowledge. Even though The Tangled Tuna is a short story, I hope it inspires even just one person to help the oceans and wider environment. This could be a beach clean, having more awareness of their own recycling, or developing technologies that help to track fishing gear globally.
Why is it important for you to donate a percentage of your book sales to charity?
I wanted the book to do as much as it can to raise awareness of ocean plastic pollution. So whilst readers will be educated and inspired, by proudly supporting Plastic Oceans UK, the message will spread further and money raised will be a further positive step. Profits from The Tangled Tuna will help the charity to support their Youth Outreach programmes for11 – 25s, empowering underrepresented young people to develop their own voice on the issues relating to ocean threats.
Why is marine conservation such an important subject for you personally?
I have a great passion for the sea. I love sailing, swimming, body-boarding and surfing – or just walking on the beach to clear the mind. It’s such an amazing place – and when I’m enjoying this, like most people, I don’t want to see pollution. With ghost gear, it’s important to raise this as it’s something you wouldn’t spot like a plastic bottle when at the beach. It’s far out at sea – out of sight, and mind – so this book brings it to the fore and highlights what is happening in our oceans.
A massive thank you to Richard for taking the time to talk to us about his work. The Tangled Tuna can be purchased worldwide, priced at £4.99 (or country equivalent) on Amazon. You can also follow him on twitter @RichardShorebks.