Daily Archives: September 30, 2009

Nature Talk With Author Marghanita Hughes

TGSG Note: I am thrilled to have Marghanita Hughes, a children’s book author, illustrator and the creator of the award winning Little Humbugs, stop by to chat with us today. Marghanita is not only very talented, but a true advocate for children and family spending time connecting with the natural world. She adds an important voice to the ever-growing movement to get people back outside again, and you know I love that! See ya outside! ~ The Grass Satin Guru


1.  What type of child were you, and how did your childhood influence your profession as an author and illustrator?

I was a very curious inquisitive, energetic child. Growing up with three brothers I suppose you could say I was a bit of a tomboy. I spent more time climbing trees, on my bike, going on adventures rather than playing with my dolls. (I’m making up for that now though with my Little Humbugs!) My parents invested a lot of time introducing my brothers and I to the great outdoors. They instilled a love of nature in us all which I have cherished all my life.

My father in particular was a very outdoors man. We camped in some of the more remote parts of Scotland in all kinds weather… he was very passionate about the Natural World and wanted so much to share it with us. Now, even as an adult, he continues to share his passion, sending me gifts of beautiful nature books.

Although at the time  I didn’t always appreciate camping in the rain, it definitely  influenced me later on in my life- it led me to a career as a children’ s author/illustrator. I wanted to share with children, the magic nature has to offer.

2. What led you to start your Little Humbugs series?

My journey began almost 4 years ago with the first drawing of Jasmine the Butterfly Girl, closely followed by Dragonfly Boy.

When we moved into our new home in BC, I observed my children as they played and danced underneath huge pine trees. They were surrounded by large swallowtail butterflies and equally large dragonflies. It was the most natural thing in the world to see my children so happy, totally at one with nature, that’s when the characters started to evolve in my mind.

The Humbugs live their lives  not dissimilar to how we all used to live, just like indigenous people who respect and live in harmony with Mother Earth.
As a mother of 3, I have always had two major concerns: children are spending far less time playing outdoors than ever before; the Natural Environment around us is constantly being plundered and despoiled.
As a child, I reveled in the magic of Mother Nature. As a parent, I feel driven to protect it.

I want my children and the generations that follow to inherit the same privileges that I once enjoyed. As a children’s author and illustrator I hope to inspire children to embrace the outdoors and experience for themselves, how wonderful Mother Nature can be.

3. I know Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, had a real impact on you. What would you like to say to parents about nature deficit disorder, and do you have any advice for helping get kids interested in nature and the outdoors?

I have great admiration for Richard Louv, he has successfully raised awareness of Nature Deficit Disorder and has instigated change. I find it incredibly sad that NDD has reached epidemic proportions. However there are changes taking shape at grass roots level which fills me with hope.

We are so fortunate to have organizations like (Richard Louv’s) Children and Nature Network. I get excited when I read about national parks getting involved, organizations waking up to what’s needed, forest schools opening around the country, similar to Norway where the outdoors is embedded in their cultural life.

It’s all about working together – schools, organizations, parents and individuals to connect children back to nature.

My own personal belief- as parents we have a duty to introduce and share nature with our children.

The time spent with my parents outdoors  influenced me to make nature a big part of my children’s lives. I hope they will in turn, want to share the same magic with their own children.

We all need to make time for nature. Slow down and take stock of what’s really important in life. Nature is FREE. It doesn’t cost you anything, only your TIME and the rewards are magical.

When your children are young it’s so much easier to get them interested in nature, they don’t have (or shouldn’t have) the indoor distractions older children have nowadays. When my children were very young, they were always outdoors, pretty much like my childhood. However, now that two of my children are teenagers, it’s a little different. They do spend time indoors on the computer and watching a little TV but it’s balanced with lot’s of outdoor activity.

I used to fight the whole gaming thing, I would not allow a Playstation anywhere near the house but I came to realize that it was part of today’s lifestyle and it wasn’t going to go away. I also knew that if my kids weren’t playing computer games in our home they would go seek it elsewhere. So a few years ago I gave in– but there had to be rules! Start a “day on day off” policy for computer time/gaming- so that the computer isn’t on every day. This works for us (max 1 hour at a time).

4. Name five “can’t miss” moments for today’s kids:

Camping Outdoors: Sit around a camp fire toasting marshmallows, storytelling, watch the first twinkling stars appear, beneath the silvery moon. Curl up in your sleeping bag, cozy and warm- listen to the wind howling, the calls of the wild, the rain crashing against the tent. (It can even be in your own backyard.)

A day at the sea: Running barefoot in the sand, poking at the seaweed, searching for shells, watching waves crash against the rocks, letting tiny fish tickle your toes, smelling the sea air and looking for crabs in rock pools.

Growing Your Own Vegetables: You don’t even need a yard/garden, just a few pots and a handful of seeds. Children can observe the full lifecycle of plants/vegetables-they even get to eat the fruits of their labor.

A Forest Walk (with a waterfall on route):
Gaze at the tall majestic trees, smell the pine , hug a tree, spot a squirrel or chipmunk, collect sticks and cones, listen to the birds singing, be amazed by a waterfall – watch the water cascading over ancient rocks, plunging into a deep green pool.  Keep an eye out for deer, checkout footprints down below – you might even spot a Little Humbug! It is impossible not to be affected by the sheer majesty of the forest.

Spotting a rare or uncommon bird, animal or insect: Take a pair of binoculars and or a camera, hunt for wildlife. There is nothing more exciting than spotting an owl perched high in a tree, a deer feasting on some berries, a butterfly resting on a flower. Capture your wildlife on camera or draw it from memory. Make a journal of your exciting findings.

5. You have an afternoon free – all to yourself: what do you go do?

I don’t often get time to go on a bike ride by myself (it’s usually with the family or my husband) so I’d probably take off for a slow bike ride around the orchards and vineyards, it’s so picturesque and reminds me of wonderful times biking through sleepy Southern France. Then relax on the deck with a good book and glass of wine.


Author Bio: Award-winning author and illustrator Marghanita Hughes lives on the edge of a forest in Bristish Colombia, with her husband David, their three children and Prince, their faithful Flatcoat Retriever. You can follow her on Twitter at @littlehumbugs.

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