It’s my stop on the blog tour for Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks by Alex Morss, Sean Taylor and Sarah Edmonds and I’m delighted to be sharing a guest post by Alex.
Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks is a colourful compendium of some of the most unusual and unexpected features in the animal kingdom, from puzzling toes to weird ears, and all the other body parts in between! This usual book reminds us that everyone is strange and wonderful in their own unique way!
So now let me hand over to Bristol based author and ecologist Alex Morss…
Why I wanted to tell a story about Funny Bums and Freaky Beaks
I’d like to open by saying this: be like the bird of paradise who sings upside down if that’s your brilliant thing. That’s the animal whose voice opens our book.
There is more to Funny Bums and Freaky Beaks than rude and funny looking animals, although there are plenty of those, divided up into 10 silly sounding chapters about body parts and why they look peculiar. I work as an ecologist as well as a science writer, and Sean Taylor my co-writer loves the humour of story telling for young children, so those things underpin how we crafted this book, but more deeply we wanted to convey important conservation messages, lots of fun science knowledge, and a self esteem message for children who may encounter bullying or prejudice in their lives.
There is also a personal story for me in this book, which is perhaps more subtle. I’ve always found solace in nature, and the more I discover, the more hooked I become on wanting to help to heal our planet. I hope others feel the same when they find themselves in awe after discovering an incredible or strange creature that needs our support.
For all sorts of reasons, we can feel different too, at any age. I now fully embrace that, but I have struggled with it in the past. What makes us different is often part of what makes us unique and wonderful. The children and families who have reached out to me most about our book have included those who can relate to this – as well as many passionate wildlife lovers I’ve heard from many neurodiverse people, lots of working class people like me, many parents of kids who dislike reading or struggle with conventional books, plus kids and families affected by social injustice issues, bullying, racism or other types of discrimination. They get it, they can relate to how it feels to be treated differently and we especially want them to know they are wonderful just as they are.
I know that feeling too, and I want them to see it’s ok and good to be diverse and different to those around them. Look to nature to see why difference and diversity are important and be proud of being an individual who may not do things exactly the same as the crowd around you.
We are a neurodiverse family, and I also know what prejudice and being picked on feels like. Also, many of my bestest buddies and people who have been most inspirational to me are neurodiverse or different to the big crowd in some way. I love and admire all of you with differences. Be confident in who you are. That’s often your magic even if you don’t know it yet.
Diverse minds and cultures and traits with abilities to think and do things differently give unique strengths and gifts that the world needs, but this also brings challenges. It can lead to misunderstandings, prejudice, bullying and affect mental health. Differences are often invisible, especially in neurodiverse females, because of masking. But “normal” is a fictional ideology anyway, worth remembering if you feel in some way excluded or marginalised. Mathematically speaking, all “normal” really means is being close to very average at something – and why is that so highly rated? Why try to hide your light and blend in when you were born to be you? What makes us stand out as individuals is not something we should fear or hide.
Because we are social animals, we gather in tribes and can instinctively desperately want to fit in. But it’s ok to be an individual and think and do things differently, as we can see across nature.
This was my thinking when we were creating our Funny Bums book, celebrating unusual animals with unique characteristics.
This book is a mix of fun, rude and seriously solid science, as we pack in very big number of words for a children’s picture book – about 10,000 plus over 100 illustrations by Sarah Edmonds – and all of them are based on peer reviewed, often slightly bonkers sounding science. But we wanted this book to be an accessible and memorable celebration of wonder in the natural world as well as giving important messages about diversity and difference. Many of the animals in the book are at risk or endangered.
But which animal is the most extraordinary and silly of all? We all have our favourites. Perhaps for me it is the last animal in the book, the human, who, despite all this species’ amazing talents, hasn’t worked out that destroying our only living planet is not a clever idea at all. And it doesn’t have to be like this – we can use all our special unique skills to be the difference the world needs.
Thank you, Alex, for sharing your personal experiences and why you are so passionate about celebrating diversity all around us.
Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks was published by Welbeck Editions 28 April 2022
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.