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The Emerald Forest

‘The Emerald Forest’ is the debut children’s picture book by Catherine Ward, illustrated by Karin Littlewood and published by Otter Barry Books.

Michelle and Catherine connected on social media when Michelle came across her new children's book. This was the first time Michelle had seen a book that was not only illustrating the orangutan relationships and the challenges they face, but also touches on palm oil and making sustainable choices.

Here is a blog post, written by Catherine, with more about the book and her passion for orangutans.

‘Orangutan lived in a vast, emerald green forest.  Whichever way she swung through the canopy, there were always more trees…’

And so begins the story of Orangutan and her young.  A story of a once pristine rainforest which starts to be chopped down.  Where will Orangutan and her family live now?  

Hi.  My name is Catherine Ward

I’m a children’s picture book author.  ‘The Emerald Forest’ is my debut, illustrated by Karin Littlewood and published by Otter Barry Books. As a geographer, and with previous experience working in primary schools, I am often drawn to writing about the natural world, finding stories which I hope will ignite fascination and wonder in children.  I believe passionately in the power of books to help children learn about our planet and the amazing wildlife we live alongside. 


For me, children’s nature books are a window on the world. With two thirds of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, the natural world can feel remote, almost ‘other worldly’.  Many of us, including our children, will never see glaciers or rainforests, coral reefs, or mountain peaks.  We won’t see an orangutan in the wild, a polar bear striding across the ice, a zebra shark swimming in the sea.  But the natural world is in crisis and urgently needs our compassion and care.  According to the IUCN Red list of threatened species, more than 41,000 species are threatened with extinction - that's 28% of all monitored species.


There is still hope for the future.

I believe that, as well as helping children to understand and care about the threats to the natural world, they (and we) need to know that there is still hope for the future. That there are many incredible people doing all they can to save and protect nature.  And not only that.  If we understand why the natural world is in crisis, we also have an opportunity to do something about it ourselves. To be a part of the solution. To be empowered to make decisions about how we live our lives while there is still an opportunity to save what is left of the natural world. 


To quote Sir David Attenborough, ‘If children don’t grow up knowing about nature and appreciating it, they will not understand it.  And if they don’t understand it, they won’t protect it.’


A childhood fascination

I chose to write a picture book about rainforests and orangutans partly because of my own childhood fascination with rainforests. I clearly remember sitting in the classroom reading a book and drawing a picture of the rainforest layers, thinking, 'Wow!'  Rainforests play a crucial role in the overall balance of the world's ecosystems. And many of the species found in rainforests are found nowhere else on earth, including orangutans.


Orangutans are only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and are critically endangered. They play a vital role in the dispersal of seeds. If orangutans disappear, so will several tree species, especially those with large seeds.


More than half of Sumatra’s rainforests have been lost in the last thirty years due to palm oil production, logging, coal mining, small-scale agriculture and the development of roads.


But hope is not lost. 

In 2015, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and The Orangutan Project formed a company to manage and protect 100,000 acres of forest bordering the Thirty Hills (Bukit Tigapuluh) National Park, Sumatra.  They have a 60-year challenge to save one of the last great areas of rainforest.  It is one of the few wild places where orangutans, tigers and elephants coexist. 


Based on a real-life conservation project.

‘The Emerald Forest’ is based on this real-life conservation project and is the story of hope that I wanted to share with children about orangutans and rainforests.  The story also helps children learn about orangutans and the incredible relationship a mother orangutan has with her young. Did you know that young orangutans have one of the longest childhood dependencies on their mother of any animal in the world because they have so much to learn to survive in the wild?


I also wanted children and their families to realise that they can play their part in protecting orangutans and rainforests through their consumer choices.  To understand about palm oil production and the importance of making informed decisions about buying sustainably.  If you would like to learn more, why not follow these links:


Helping children to learn about orangutans.

One of the great joys of being a children’s author is spending time with children in schools and at events.  Through activities and games, my workshops help children learn about why orangutans and rainforests need protecting and how we can each play our part.  For them to share with their families and take positive action for themselves.  Taking one recent school visit as an example, the year 5 and 6 pupils did further research after my visit and then wrote speeches about orangutans, palm oil and protecting rainforests.  Their speeches were moving, heart-felt and passionate.


My wish is that we will all be filled with love for orangutans, awe for the rainforests in which they live, understanding of what is happening to their habitat, desire to help protect both, to play our part in sustainable consumer choices, and to have hope for their future.


‘… And maybe, just maybe, one day [the forest will] be as big as the vast, emerald green forest where they had once lived.’

 ‘The Emerald Forest’ can be bought through major book retailers and many independent bookshops. You can say hello to Catherine on Instagram (@catherineward0) and X (@CatherineWard0), where you will mainly find her sharing about books and nature.


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