Amara and the Bats: The Story Behind the Book!

February 17 2022 – Harrison Broadhurst

Hello! My name’s Emma Reynolds and I’m an illustrator and author from Manchester in the UK. And I love bats! I’m excited to be writing this guest post for BatBnB because I’ve made a book that is all about bat houses! So I’m here to tell you more about it, and ways you can get involved with bat conservation too.

 

My author-illustrator debut ‘Amara and the bats’ is all about bat conservation and rewilding, showing how amazing bats are, and giving hope for readers struggling with climate anxiety.

 It tells the story of a little girl called Amara who loves bats! Her favourite things to do are to collect bat facts in her notebook, and watch the flying mammals at night with her family. But when they move to a new town, she is sad to find that bats no longer live there because they’re losing their habitat. So, inspired by real life youth climate activists such as Tokata Iron Eyes, Dara McAnulty, and Greta Thunberg, Amara rallies her new friends and her community to save the bats by rewilding her local area and putting up bat houses!

Bat facts are weaved in throughout the book, and there are practical steps to take action to help bats and useful links in the back too.

INSPIRATION BEHIND THE BOOK 

I’ve always loved bats since I was a kid, and when I first drew Amara back in 2016 I knew I had to make a story about her. I drew her looking up curiously, and I imagined that she was looking at a bat. This combined with knowing that bats are woefully misunderstood, and that there are hardly any books about bats – was why I wanted to make this book.

 

Emma’s first sketch of Amara and the bats

Emma’s first sketch of Amara and the bats

When researching for ‘Amara and the Bats’, I joined my local bat group and got involved as much as I could on surveys, and I took part on a licensed bat box check. I got to see a Noctule bat up close ‘in the hand’, and it was one of my favourite experiences ever!

Noctule bat up close

Noctule bat up close

Many bat workers and bat enthusiasts say that they got hooked on bats when they saw them up close for the first time, and I knew that this was such an important moment to capture in the book. Amara first falls in love with bats when a bat gets trapped in her attic, and then she gets to see the bat up close held very gently in a towel by the wildlife rescue. Bats are so elusive to most of us because we mostly see bats flitting by at night time, so it was an opportunity to show people how cute and fascinating our microbats are both in flight and up close. 

It was important to me to have a human-centred narrative around bat conservation and (as far as I’m aware) it’s the only book that does so. The readers can then put themselves in Amara and her friend’s shoes as they navigate the challenges, and see what positive things they could do to help bat conservation too!

I wanted to tell an engaging narrative driven story and share bat facts at the same time, which encourages the reader to see how amazing (and cute!) bats really are, and exactly why they’re vital to all life on earth through highlighting their roles in ecosystems. I show through accessible illustrations bat’s roles as keystone species seed dispersers, plant pollinators, and as earth’s natural bug repellents – eating crop destroying insects and mosquitos. Did you know that bats pollinate 70% of the tropical fruit that humans eat and that we wouldn’t have fruit like bananas without them? Or tequila? Bats save farmers billions of dollars a year in pesticides, because bats eat the insects that would otherwise destroy their crops. When humans let bats do their thing and encourage them, we all thrive. 

THE POWER OF A STORY

Picture books are a powerful form of communication for engaging young people. Picture books are human’s first experiences of stories, and their impact and messages stay with us our entire lives. They are also a meaningful moment for bonding between a child and their adult, usually read together at bedtime snuggled up together, no safer feeling in the world. These stories can ignite imaginations and inspire a world of curiosity and learning, and we carry these inspirations into adulthood.

My book has just come out, and it has been beyond wonderful to have been sent videos and pictures already from parents who have said their kid immediately ran upstairs to dress in all grey like a bat, another who started their own bat fact note book, drew a ‘save the bats’ sign, requested the book every night before bed, and families who have already put up a bat box in their garden in the UK. It fills my heart with joy and hope, because this is exactly why I made this book!

Photos from Rachel Morrisroe

Photos from Rachel Morrisroe

I can’t wait to continue using my book as a learning tool to help with community engagement and bat conservation. The facts and ways to encourage bats in this book can be used as a guide for readers and bat fans of all ages.

HERE ARE SOME GREAT WAYS PEOPLE OF ALL AGES CAN GET INVOLVED TO HELP BATS:

Kids helping install a BatBnB Bat house!

Kids helping install a BatBnB Bat house!

 

  • LEARN ABOUT YOUR LOCAL BATS!

There are over 1,420 different species of bats all over the world, and they all have their own unique needs! So the first step is to research what bats you have living near you. Here are some links to help you get started:For folks in the US, check out Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation and Bat Conservation International. For folks in the UK, check out Bat Conservation Trust & Bat Conservation Ireland. For Australians, check out Australasian Bat Society and find useful links for other international bat groups too. 

  • JOIN A BAT CHARITY!

Helping a bat charity is a great way to learn more about bats, plus you’ll be supporting their amazing conservation work and be able to meet other bat fans at their online and in person events. (See links above)

  • MAKE YOUR GARDEN OR COMMUNITY SPACE BAT FRIENDLY!

Avoid using pesticides, let wildlife grow wild, and plant local flowers and plants that attract insects for bats to eat!

  • PUT UP A BAT HOUSE!

     

Help bats by installing a bat house

Help bats by installing a bat house

Putting up a houses (also called a ‘bat box’ in the UK & Europe) with the help of an adult is one of the best ways you can help bats! The bats will love living in a safe home, and in return they will help eat the pest insects (like mosquitoes) from your yard! If you’re purchasing a bat house, make sure it’s from a certified vendor like BatBnB to keep the bats safe and happy.

(Learn more about what qualities a successful bat house here.)


  • MINIMIZE RISK TO WILDLIFE

If you have a cat, keep them inside around sunset - especially in summer months when bats have their baby bat pups.

  •  BE A BAT AMBASSADOR LIKE AMARA!

And most importantly, be a bat ambassador, and let everyone know just how amazing and vital to all life on earth bats are! Bats need your help. Share the bat facts in this book and help bust harmful myths about bats!

 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, and I hope you all enjoy your bat adventure!

-   Emma

 

‘Amara and the Bats’ is out now! Available to purchase in your local independent bookshop and online.

Order links: https://emmareynoldsillustration.com/amaraandthebats

Follow Emma on Twitter @emmaillustrate & Instagram @emmaillustrate and keep up to date with all her latest news and events by signing up to her quarterly newsletter here.

 

Follow BatBnB on Twitter & Instagram to learn fun facts about bats and tips about bat houses!

 

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