Lara Hawthorne (Author, Illustrator) Fresh new talent Lara Hawthorne graduated from Falmouth University in 2013. Her first picture book, Herb was published in 2014 and she was selected to illustrate Carol Ann Duffy's The King of Christmas (Picador, 2016). Inspired by nature, myths and legends, Lara creates wonderful small worlds with her distinct watercolour style. She currently lives in Bristol, UK.
If there's one prediction we'd like to make - and truly hope for it to come true - it'd be that children's books continue to comment on the massive damage we're doing to our planet, encouraging our youngsters to take a stand and do something about it - and convince their daft elders to do the same. In Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne a clear ecological message is beautifully woven into the story of Alba who loves to roam the oceans. Alba has spent her entire life collecting precious objects that drift down to the ocean floor. From delicate shells to brightly coloured coral, each year on her birthday she gathers one more precious item. But over the years, Alba notices her collection is losing its sparkle and that the world is changing. What are these bits of plastic and metal?As the coral reef fades, Alba decides to leave her home behind - and after a traumatic incident with a plastic bottle, Alba makes it her new mission in life to try and educate folk - to bring the oceans back to their former glory.After a year when the true extent of pollution in our oceans was finally brought into the public eye in the harrowing scenes witnessed in Blue Planet II, there's still a huge need for books like this. Not preachy, but full of glorious illustrations and a touching story that will really help to bring its point across. Glorious stuff. * Read it Daddy * Alba the fish is over a hundred years old; she has always collected objects from the sea bed but she starts to notice the seas are changing. Along with her, we learn that this is the result of pollution. Alba determines to do her bit to help, and this message strongly shows that we all have a role to play and every single one of us can make a positive impact. The gradual loss of colour, and then its return, is tellingly depicted in the telling changes in the colours of the stunning illustrations. They are full of detail and well worth looking at to learn about the world of the coral reef and its creatures. It's effective and thought-provoking - an excellent way to highlight the dangers of marine pollution and to encourage children to think about the effects of plastic * Parents in Touch * Alba loves all things beautiful and shiny, and it is her pleasure to bring her treasures back to her coral reef home. Over the years her collection grows. One day, she realises there aren't so many fish as there used to be. In fact, the coral isn't looking so healthy either, and instead of shiny treasures, she can only find strange and horrible rubbish. When Alba gets trapped in a plastic bottle which washes up on a beach, a little girl decides it is time to act. With the help of her community, she makes part of the ocean a healthier place for Alba to live again. This story was inspired by a rough-eye rockfish which lived until 205 years old. It was also inspired by the changes which the ocean has undergone in that time. Changes which are entirely down to human activity. Birds are dying with plastic in their stomach. Dolphins are getting caught in plastic debris. The list of animals harmed by plastic goes on and on, but even with growing awareness of the problem, it will take something else for humans to commit to a real change. It takes empathy. Learning to care about the environment from a young age has never been more important and story plays a key role in nurturing empathy. Soon awareness campaigns won't be enough. The next generation needs to care about the world without being told. I love the illustrations which lay out the changes Alba has seen in the ocean. A colourful world or a grey one. The choice is as simple as that. That's not to say this book is all agenda. It is a gentle story which shows the difference one determined person can make. It also gives us a look at the coral reef and underwater world in all its colourful glory. Lara Hawthorne is one of my favourite illustrators of recent years. She makes eye-catching use of colour and pattern. These are the type of pictures which I look over and over to spot more detail. This would make a lovely book to share at bedtime just because every picture opens up a whole new conversation. 'Did you spot the diamond? Which fish is your favourite?' It is a real book for sharing. This would also be a lovely book to encourage children to draw underwater pictures. It shows shells and corals and fish in their infinite shapes and colours. Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish may have a strong message, but it isn't an awareness campaign. It is the sort of book which promotes true empathy and love. I'm a big fan and I can see this being a huge hit we look to start more conversations about plastic pollution. * Book Murmuration * Alba is a one hundred year old fish who lives on the coral reef. As time goes by she notices that unfriendly things start to appear in the water and her friends begin to leave. The coral reef is being suffocated with rubbish from a nearby town. One day, Alba decides to leave too. As she swims through the murky water she notices an unusual shell with a pearl in the bottom. She squeezes into the shell to retrieve it, but the shell is really a plastic bottle and she becomes trapped. Alba washes up on a beach and is rescued by a little girl. Horrified, the girl brings Alba's plight to the attention of the town and they all work together to clean up the water before returning Alba to her home. The story ends on a note of hope. This lovely book brings children's attention to the plastic crisis in our oceans, but at the same time, teaches them that all is not lost. The story provokes discussion about what we can all do to help prevent rubbish appearing in our oceans. * Early Years Educator * A highly topical picture book about the damage plastic pollution does to the coral reef home of Alba and how the local community work together to clean the surrounding ocean. Alba has lived on the reef her whole life and each year, on her birthday, Alba finds something beautiful to add to her collection. However, over the years Alba notices there are less and less beautiful things to collect and that there are less friends to celebrate her birthday with. She's also noticed more and more unusual objects killing the coral and making the water dark and murky. She sets off further afield and finds more than she had bargained for * Library Girl and Book Boy *