The Treeture Creatures And Flowerbuds Series By Marian Hawkins

The Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series by children’s author Marian Hawkins is a delightful collection of semi-educational rhyming storybooks that will plant the seed of learning about nature in the mind of young readers.

By Gwyneth Rees

Move over Julia Donaldson! The Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series by debut children’s author Marian Hawkins is every bit as captivating and heart-warming as The Gruffalo creator’s beloved works.

For those parents and children who don’t yet know, this collection is a charming series of rhyming stories accompanied by vibrant full-colour illustrations and fascinating facts about the natural world.

Aimed primarily at children aged between four and nine years old, the books take young readers on an engaging journey of discovery as they learn about the characteristics that make each living thing unique and special.

Each book features a lovable character going on an unforgettable adventure—Oaky the Oak Leaf, Willow the Willow Leaf and Beech the Beech Leaf—with the dual purpose of entertaining and educating, inspiring a passion for nature and highlighting the importance and heritage of the UK’s magnificent trees.

The stories are easy to follow and, combined with the accompanying artwork by talented artist Gaynor Volpi, they will be sure to capture the hearts of children and parents alike.

In the first book, Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds: Oaky the Oak Leaf,  Oaky the oak leaf falls from his tree and then seeks to get back to it.

Before he does so, however, he gets to go on adventure in the countryside where he first meets a leaf from an alder tree, then is taken by a tractor wheel to a rowan tree before he encounters a friendly spider and bluebell on his way home.

In Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds: Willow the Willow Leaf, meanwhile, Willow is washed downstream, where he is taken far away by a woodpecker before eventually being able to get back to his tree, having made many new friends along the way.

Finally, in Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds: Beech the Beech Leaf, Beech finds herself being transported by a dog, a football and then a red kit before being reunited with his tree.

The Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series by Marian Hawkins comprises Oaky the Oak Leaf, Willow the Willow Leaf, and Beech the Beech Leaf. These beautiful stories will help your child discover the wonders of nature.

They are classic children’s stories that are simple memorable, designed to keep the attention of young children by their delightful rhymes and surprising encounters.

As a parent myself, I particularly appreciated how informative the books are, even for adults, revealing easy ways to recognise different types of tree by their leaves, as well as wildflowers.

For instance, we learn about how horse chestnuts have long lobes and conkers in prickly green cases, which become food for deer.

With the spruce, we find out that it can be spotted by its short stiff needles that smell sweet, and cones that squirrels like to eat.

And with the beech, we are taught that it is considered a queen for being so majestic, with oval leaves with a wavy edge, and nuts with small spiky green cases.

We also discover the many uses of these trees for humans and animals alike. For instance, the sycamore is strong, so good for utensils such as bowls and spoons. Its flowers, meanwhile, offer nectar to bees while pigs love to feast on its seeds.

There are even some snippets of folklore thrown in for good measure, such as the old wives’ tale about putting conkers in your house to deter spiders.

The three stories in the Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series by Marian Hawkins are completed by two handy pocket-sized swatch books to help kids take the lessons they’ve learned about spotting trees and flowers into the great outdoors.

To aid in recognition, the characters are drawn in such a way as to easily personify their characteristics.

For example, Oaky has an acorn (the fruit of the oak tree) for a crown. The horse chestnut tree resembles a horse, the spruce has baubles to link its connection with Christmas trees, and the rowan tree resembles a wizard because its Celtic name translates as ‘wizard’s tree’.

You’ll be surprised just how much you find out from these books, and you will certainly be eager to head outdoors with the kids to test your new-found spotting skills.

After the story is over, the books end with more interesting facts about trees—not least about how important trees are, helping clean the air, stabilise soil and providing homes for wildlife—as well as puzzles to solve to help embed the knowledge picked up.

Accompanying the main series are two smaller, pocket-sized swatch (or fabric) books—Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds: Tree Trail and Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds: Flower Trail—which feature characters from the main books assisting you on your nature spotting trips.

Just as informative as the stories, they provide children with essential facts about certain types of plants, supplemented by wonderful photos and drawings.

Author Marian Hawkins has clearly gone that extra mile to make the Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series resonate with young minds, combing a natural talent for poetry with a sincere, infectious joy concerning the wonders of nature that can be found virtually on the doorstep.

For instance …

Horse Chestnut says… my oval lobes are long,
Shaped just like a hand, with toothed edges all along.

Marian was a Brownie as a child and fondly recalls being sent out to identify different types of trees.

She is now passing on that wisdom to a new generation, with the hope that it will encourage them to put aside their tablets and other gadgets to go outside and find the natural treasures all around.

Based on how my children responded to her books, I firmly believe they will achieve Marian’s aim, being a must for any budding environmentalist.

I think most, if not all, parents will agree that our children deserve to be taught much more about trees and plants, and these books are the perfect guides to get them started. I’d even go so far as to say they should be considered for the early year’s school curriculum.

After reading the The Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series, you’ll be sure to find your kids’ understanding of nature branching out and blooming.

The Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series, comprising Oaky the Oak Leaf, Willow the Willow Leaf, and Beech the Beech Leaf by Marian Hawkins are out now through Blue Falcon Publishing, priced at £11.99 each in hardcover and £2.96 as audiobooks. The Tree Trail and Flower Trail  swatchbooks are available in paperback priced separately at £5.99. All five titles are also currently available as an exclusive bundle, priced £35, from the author’s website, www.marianhawkins.co.uk.

Q&A INTERVIEW WITH MARIAN HAWKINS

We speak to children’s author Marian Hawkins about the Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series and how they are inspiring children to discover the wonders of the natural world. 

Q. Why do you think it is important for children to learn about our natural environment?

A. Because in everyday life we must make decisions that could make a difference to our ever-changing world.  For example, teaching children that if they go to a park, or beach or anywhere then to leave it as they found it. I am very keen on a phrase I have seen on some beaches: ‘Please just leave your footprints’. That is a good starting point for children to realise nature is a powerful entity but our impact could ruin some areas if we do not look after them. Simple things like teaching children to grow something from a seed so they understand caring and nurturing something can help them understand where their food comes from. It is very satisfying to see something you have grown produce fruit.

Q. Compared to when you were a child, do you think today’s children spend too much time indoors?

A. I do think so many parents manage to keep a good balance of time spent indoor and out, but I appreciate it is a difficult balance to achieve. Children have so much technology today that you can lose track of how much screen time they are using. Most families I know manage to embrace both. When I was a child, a huge percentage of my time was spent outside. We could play out in the street and visit a local park with friends of similar ages without parent supervision. I think safety issues with busier roads and other concerns restrict parents from giving children today the same freedoms. Schools running after-school activities now seem to focus quite a few outside, however, and many do a lunchtime mile walk too, which is beneficial.  

Q. What is your favourite tree or wildflower, and why?

A. My favourite tree must be the mighty oak. Aside from Oaky being my first character, I love that the oak is the king of trees. Some can live up to 1,000 years old. They represent stability and wisdom. I am fond of the quote, ‘From small acorns mighty oak grows’. We recently planted an oak tree in our garden and it fills me with pride that in years to come it will still be standing for new generations of our family to wonder at.

My favourite wildflower is the snowdrop. This flower is often the first to peak through the earth after winter to show spring is on its way. Some elements of the snowdrop are used in medicine for pain relief, too. These facts always fascinate me!

Children’s author Marian Hawkins, pictured here with book illustrator Gaynor Volpi, shares her love of nature with young readers in the charming Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds.

Q. How difficult is it to learn to identify different trees and wildflowers?

A. I think it can be difficult because there are so many varieties and species, some within the same family. With changing seasons, you don’t always have the leaf as an identifying feature. Other methods can be used such as the bark, seeds, and the shape of the tree, buds or thorns. My books simplify the identifying process to the leaf, although other clues are in the stories to help children understand the different shapes, sizes and unique qualities of each individual tree.

Q. How have parents and children responded to your books?

A. I have been really pleased with the feedback. It has been very positive and a conversation starter for children to recognise trees they have in their own gardens or have seen in parks. I have been to many events where I bring my oversized cardboard Oaky, where children tell me that they love how friendly and cute the characters are. Children have a tendency to be very honest so their feedback is very important to me. They have also commented on the rhyming nature of the books, enjoying the story but learning some facts along the way. I have features in the back of the book explaining the importance of trees.

Children seem amazed at how clever trees are. Both parents and children have commented that after reading the books they are excited to go outside with the swatch booklets to see which characters they can find on their own walk or adventure.

Children have often remarked that they are happy that each leaf finds its own tree, too.

Q. You have always had a love of writing, but this series marks your literary debut as an author. How have you found the experience?

A. I have found the experience positive, exhilarating, scary, satisfying, frustrating and gratifying. Sending my first drafts out for feedback was quite daunting, waiting for the initial response from my actual target audience. To hear how it was received was very satisfying, I had some constructive criticism on small and easy amendable things but, overall, it was very positive feedback. 

Knowing my words and characters are enjoyed by children and parents from all over the country is exhilarating. Hosting my first event was very scary. I felt nervous at first, but as people came over to chat about the concept of my books, I soon relaxed and just chatted as the idea was generally approved of by the visitors. 

I have, however, been a little frustrated that it is virtually impossible to achieve any shelf space in the major bookshops for independent published authors. Many celebrities or previously published authors seem to have a monopoly on the major stores.  I was grateful that the major stores all stocked my series online though. I am very grateful to Blue Falcon Publishing for believing in my vision and giving me the help and advice to achieve my end goal.

Q. What do you think the secret is to writing books for children that both entertain and educate?

A. I wouldn’t say I know the secret to writing children’s books that entertain and educate as it is a difficult balance to make. In a continuous growing market—of unicorns, dragons, magical mysteries—to produce a semi-educational book and keep the fun element Is quite difficult to achieve. I think from my feedback I have done that.

Q. You visit local schools to talk about your books. What has the response been like?

A. I have been lucky enough to do a few school visits and it has been a totally heart-warming, full-of-fun experience. I found the children love to tell you facts they already know so we start with a chat about things they can tell me about trees and wildflowers. Their excitement to answer is so special. Once we have had a chat, I read the story; it is a wonderful feeling looking up at their faces as they listen to your words. It is encouraging when they then relay facts from the story back to me as something they didn’t know. We then play a game of pairs, where the children try and match and name the leaves and wildflowers. I have had some lovely feedback from the head teachers, who in some cases hadn’t had any visits for over two years because of Covid.

Q. Aside from your books, if you could give one piece of guidance to parents about how to engage their children with nature, what would it be?

A. The great outdoors in a wonderful free resource for educating children. On the walk home from school, take a moment to look up and around you there is an abundance of thought-provoking opportunities to spike your child’s curiosity. For example, why is it raining? Why is the sky blue? Why are leaves green? Why is a bee on a flower? All good ways to start a fun educational conversation.

Q. What can young readers expect from you next?

I have started researching another nine wildflowers and 12 trees to expand the depth of characters in the Treeture Creatures and Flowerbuds series. I have been speaking with my very talented illustrator, Gaynor Volpi, about creating some new characters.

I would also love to publish a story I wrote many years ago. It is loosely based on my children growing up. They lived so close to their cousins and had many an adventure in their grandad’s allotment, field and lorry yard. I think so many newly published books have a message these days. My message would be let children be children and enjoy playing freely as you are (hopefully) an adult for a lot longer.

Q. Have you personally been involved in planting any new trees.

A. Over the years we have lost a lot of trees from our garden due to storms and old age, so last year we planted 18 new fruit trees: apple, greengage, cherry, pear and walnut.  We have also been fortunate to have been given an oak tree that now has pride of place at the top of our garden. In years to come, hopefully these trees will be still standing for many generations to come.

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