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Phoebe the Bee and Tales from Mother Earth

Jenny Bailey and Phoebe the Bee Discuss Kids Conservation

Igniting the conservationist in all of us especially children through realistic nature stories told from the point of view of Mother Earth. Reconnecting and empowering children with the natural world in a positive way.

Phoebe the Bee and Tales from Mother Earth


Okay. Welcome to today's Rethink What Matters podcast. And today I'm joined by Jenny Bailey, who is the co-founder and author of Tales from Mother Earth, igniting the conservationist in all of us, especially children, through realistic nature stories told from the point of view of Mother Earth. Welcome, Jenny.

Jenny

Hello, Paul. It's lovely to be here. Thank you.

Paul

Great. So the Rethink What Matters podcasts are all about aligning the economy with the ecology, with everybody so that we can create more profitable businesses, create stronger families, and a greener planet.

So, you know, I think that family decline is probably one of those much overlooked global challenges at the heart of all of our woes. So I was really drawn to your books, Jenny, that connect the planet, conservation, children, and family. You know, so we're connecting climate challenges, biodiversity loss with families and children, which is just fantastic and is really sort of dead center to what these podcasts are all about. And the other part of this you should really like is I've recently spoken with Gary Grant and Dusty Getch, who I know, you know? And they're all about green roofs and biodiversity and greening the urban landscape, you know, improving urban biodiversity. And this is just fantastic because our podcast today really sort of closes that circle if you like.

Jenny

Does it deal? There's a lot to cover there, isn't there, really?

Paul

There is. It's huge. So really looking forward to this podcast. Well, should we just start with what was your journey that led you to writing these books?

Jenny

It was kind of what you've been saying, really. The idea kind of sprang forth in 2019 whilst I was talking to a colleague. I don't know if you remember 2019, but unfortunately, it's quite similar to what's happening and occurring now across the world. The wildfires are out of control again. America is looking decidedly bad in that respect on the East Coast. Australia is now looking bad again with this, the central wildfires that they've got there. Added to that David Attenborough said to us that the Garden of Eden was no more and I listened to that. And I just thought, whoa, you know, not that it was in decline, not that it was deteriorating, not that it's hanging on. But Paul, the fact that it was no more.

Coupled with all of that, two other things, really. There was a big report that came out about the pollinators across the world being in major decline. And also, I think overriding all of this, Paul, is the fact that I'm a parent.

It was like, we need to do something. We need to rise up. We need to do something that can make ourselves feel better. And I think rather the reaction of me doing something, I felt better. 

And I said,

And so I wrote to David Attenborough to tell him what we'd actually achieved and the plan that we had in place. And Phoebe the Bee was published.

And he actually wrote back to me saying thank you because, well, that just blew me away, actually. He's thanking me, and I can't quite get my head around that at all. But I wanted him to know from my heart really, because I'd heard his call, I wanted him to know that I was doing something, and I wasn't just sitting there doing nothing. It's really important to me that he knew what we were planning and what we were doing. And so I told him in the letter about some of our other characters, for instance, that weren't even published at that time.

But I told him about the idea. He came back and he was, it was a beautiful letter from him just saying, you know, thank you for all you're doing, and I just think that is so precious. I'll never show anybody the letter in the respect of putting it out there in in social media or anything like that because it means so much to me. But every now and then I do inform people that, yes, I've received a letter from him in the household.

Paul

But it must have been lots of hints. He goes on TV, and he doesn't want people just to, you know, be watching it, drink it a cup of tea, he wants people to do stuff like he said. So that must mean a lot to him too.  

Jenny

So for those reasons, yes, we started Tales from other animals.

Paul

Brilliant. Fantastic. So let's talk now about this series of books, Tales from the Countryside.

Jenny


Yes. Tales from the Countryside is the first series of Tales from Mother Earth. And in Tales from the Countryside, I have written seven stories so far. And there's loads more. Let's face it. 

And I think that's really important. And by the very nature of me getting engaged and writing these books and forging this whole venture made me feel better. It allowed me to look my children in the eyes and go I'm doing all I can. 

Paul

What age range are these books targeted at?

Jenny

Well, they're for a three-year-old through to a ten-year-old. Yes. Because what we've done is because they're audio-picture story books. We've included just a simple story, really in the content of the book. And then at the back of the book, we've got the most important element, I think, in the book, which is the conservation message of what you need to do to look after that animal. Then we've got a coloring in picture and a fun facts page that children just literally love, and they consume all those facts, and they can share those with their friends.

And then we've got a puzzle, like a crossword puzzle, at the end of the book. And I kind of think that once child's gone from, like, a three-year-old through to a ten-year-old, and this book is being with them on that journey of discovery. And their understanding has grown in the development grown along those years, then once they've got to the puzzle and they could complete the puzzle, then they've got the essence of the book. They've got everything they need.

Paul

It's a real education tool for parents and for teachers then, to use in helping to get this message across.

Actually, you had to collaborate with others then, to get everything fact checked and, you know, with the i's dotted and the t's crossed.  


Jenny 

Absolutely. A great beekeeper in Kent called Mister Bumble, check out Phoebe the Bee. And we had Spike the Hedgehog was checked out by Hugh Warwick.

Paul

Is Mister Bumble? Sorry. Is mister Bumble really called Mister Bumble?

Jenny

Well, he is, actually. (laughs) But, to your point, it's really important to get every book and all the words checked to make sure what we're saying is correct, to make sure the information we're portraying and we've got in the book is correct.

We're going back to the audio. You've got those two elements. You've got the full narrated story and then the read along. And then you've also got our own music as well. So you've got the animals theme music that will back the story. And then we've also added a piece of music called Mother Earth's theme. And where I asked our brilliant composer Chris to write a piece of music that evokes nature. And it's the most beautiful piece of music. It really is. It falls and crescendos, and it's almost like a cannon. It repeats itself a lot. And it's like a lullaby, really. Because when we tested it in nurseries that we had children doing that they complete the utter, flat out having a relaxation and time in the afternoon after they've been quite madly dancing like bees at one point. And then they were all still and relaxed and just resting on the floor, and the difference was incredible.

Paul

Brilliant. Brilliant. Can you tell us anything a little bit more about the characters? Because there's Phoebe the bee, and can you reveal who the other characters are?

Jenny

There's Phoebe… Do you want me to show you the books as well?

Paul

Brilliant. Yes. That'd be super fun.

Jenny

Thanks. So we have Phoebe the Bee. Phoebe the Bee. She's a worker bee. She's a honey bee, and she really stands there for all the pollinators that are having a hard time right now. So more flowers, please, for the pollinators.

There’s Spike the hedgehog, nature’s favorite mammal, and we need to help him most definitely because they're on the red list to extinction. So we need to be more hedgehog aware definitely.

And then there's Stanley the Water Vole.

Paul

Hello, Stanley. Stanley the Water Vole.

Jenny

His story is all about the issue of plastic in our waterways and what we need to do to stop well, what the implications really of putting plastic in our waterways and the hardships that Stanley and his friends suffer as a consequence of our careless actions. That’s creating many litter champions out there.

Paul

Really? They're seeing the trepidation of the stories, you know, with all the dangers that exist for these animals and how it all comes good in the end, hopefully, obviously, within your stories.

Jenny

It does all come good at the end.

And in Stanley's case, if we are picking up litter and not allowing it to go into strains and rivers into our waterways, then that's going to be doing great things. If it's cumulative, obviously, everyone can make a difference doing great things for our waterways.

Paul

Yes. And to learn all this, from such a young age as well. It's brilliant, isn't it? So it's right up there with them going to school and learning about, I don't know, English and Maths and all the rest of it.

Jenny

I think so because we also teach children, obviously, that, you know, one person can make a difference, and I believe that absolutely wholeheartedly. I think it's really important to let children know that there's a power within them almost, isn't there? Power within them to make a difference.

Paul

Yes. And it's actually connecting the dots for them. I think that's one of the real values, isn't it?

Jenny

But also, Paul, the very nature of children being connected with nature, that there's so many benefits for children in nature that maybe many parents don't realize. Just time spent outside, looking at flowers or looking at the ground or looking at ants or looking at whatever you find that's alive out there because you know, there is a lot that's alive out there. And once you open your eyes to it, you can't stop to see more. And when I looked into it, I mean, I kind of knew them. But the list is endless. It goes on. It really does. And it's all outside.

Paul

I think there's a lot we can do in seeing ourselves as a part of nature. You know, not separate to it, not above it, you know, but actually we're a part of it. So that's the trees, the plants, the insects, the bugs, the animals, whatever it might be, you know, we're a part of it and if we were to get ourselves a bit more connected with nature. But this is like going about thousands of years or where it is, you know. You used to be connected in nature, didn't we? And then we've got disconnected from it. And then obviously, with the industrial revolution, we started turning everything into things we could buy and sell for modifying everything. So it’s definitely a bit of a reset that needs to happen.

Jenny

That and that's the other thinking behind the whole venture that if our books refer a child from the ages of three to ten.

Paul

Obviously, there's a lot of anxiety out there. There's a lot of mental health issues. A lot of people worried about the future. Younger generations, you mentioned the anxiety on the kid's faces when they're only little and there's, you know, and the little animals are in peril. So are you seeing that, you know, as you do your events, are people coming up to you and going, well, you know, I am anxious. I am worried. I am, you know, fearful of the future and what we're doing to the planet and this is what parents are saying to you? Is that sort of a message that's coming through as well?

Jenny

Working with a lot of primary schools, yes, absolutely. There is a lot of climate anxiety out there in children's minds because they've heard that sort of those statements, if you like, and they've taken them on board. And children are so on board with the solutions. They really are. They are buzzing to help Phoebe and wanting to help Spike. And going out on litter projects you know, so they're not dropping their litter. They're very, very aware of it. And so much so, also, when we did a recently, we did a Phoebe the Bee session. The children saw the groundskeeper literally that afternoon after the session and went, “Don't you cut the grass. Do not cut grass.”

And their teachers said, you know, they've really taken on the messages and I was like, well, that's wonderful. That's really awesome. Really trying with our stories to keep to the simple message of that in improving children's mental health, improving the wildlife in our area. And I see that it's very simple things that we can do to make a difference without getting into... You're never going to find a Tales from Mother Earth that's talking about carbon capture, I don't think.

Because, you know, a child from three to ten wouldn't really understand that. Although our most recent one is all about green roofs, but I see that as a very easy discussion to have with the child.

Paul

They are sort of nature based solutions to these things aren't they?

Jenny

That’s exactly what it is.

Paul

So there are trees, you know, the lot of nature's already doing everything we're trying to do.

Jenny

And I could maybe write a story one day about the importance of soil and putting a worm into the story or something like that. That would work. And children then to understand that would they take that on and register that. It's those messages that I think are fundamental to children to grasp and then to do action. 

Paul

And it's helping parents to understand these issues as well. I mean, not a lot of people understand soil erosion, I don't think, and the implications of that and how it all works.

It is a mad thing. The other day, I was eating a banana as you do, and I threw it in a busy public space I wouldn’t say where. And I threw the banana skin on the floor underneath a bush. I was literally berated, you know, for doing this thing. I should have put it in the bin. You know? So I thought that was quite funny. But that's how far off everybody is, right?

Jenny

It's like a while. They do take a while to sink down into the earth.

Paul

But, I mean, bananas are… It's still biodegradable. And we do need to be putting these banana peels and our apple cores and our orange peels back into nature. Because that's where it belongs. And if you go putting it in the bin, then somebody's going to have to pick it up, put it in a truck, transport it which takes energy, you know, which is CO2 generating. There's a long way to go isn't there? Well, just for all of us, I'm not perfect. I'm not saying. But we've definitely got a journey here to be more conservationist.

So are you working with other charities, other organizations?

Jenny

There is a new book out where I've been working with the Green Roof Organization, which is a fabulous, not for profit, member organization, looking after all the organizations that are putting in green roofs and bi-solar roofs across the country. And over the last couple of years, I've been working with them to produce a children's storybook, again, connecting children with nature, but getting children to understand the benefits really of these green structures and the green roof. I mean, how it gives back to biodiversity, for instance, what you can do on a green roof. And what we actually did was created two characters, so we got Freya, a hairy footed flower bee. 

Paul

Great. Hairy footed flower bee, love that. Hairy footed flower bee.

Jenny

I had to do some research on hairy footed flower bees, which was brilliant.

Paul

That's a real bee, is it?

Jenny

Yeah. It's a solitary bee. It really is a real bee.

Paul

It's not just a name you've given it?

Jenny

No. Freya’s her name. She’s a hairy footed flower bee.

And Sarah is a Seven Spot European Ladybird. And it's their journey to the green roof. And this is our story.

Paul

Journey to the green roof. Brilliant.

Jenny

And it's, again, it's the same treatment as the Tales from the Countryside series but this one hasn't got CD in it for instance. Just got the QR code, and it's got a few extra bits in it as well because I was working with the Green Roof Organization, and they had some ideas of what they want in their story. So what they wanted in the content of their book, even. So it's got a few extra bits in it, but it's going out to lots of schools. We only launched it on World Green Roof Day last week, which was the sixth of June. So it's very, very new.

It's gone out to about I think six hundred copies have gone out to schools already, and there was an incredible amount of sponsorship. So they're all the sponsor's names in the back of the book that all came on board, and all the sponsors actually have copies, and they were doing their own launch activities as well. It was really, really quite exciting.

And this, the first feedback we're getting back from schools and children that are reading it is, they just love it. They love the story. They love the music, they love the pictures, and it's going down a storm, and it's just informing children of the benefits of green roofs because the Green Roof Organization, when I first met them, what, a couple of two or three years ago now. I mean, their motto is every roof should be green. Do you know what? I think I agree with them. I really do.

And so we became members after a very kind invitation from their chair to become members with them. And they saw the bigger picture of us joining them right from the start. And I'm incredibly grateful for them to doing that because it kind of opened my eyes to kind of think about this story in a little bit more detail and bring it to fruition, which was brilliant.

Obviously, all the expert knowledge in here is all come from growth, the Green Roof Organization. They're the experts when it comes to green roofs.

Paul

Actually, Dusty was probably involved in that as well, wasn't it?

Jenny

Dusty was very much involved in it. In all honesty, Dusty bless his heart, right from the start, wanted a hairy footed flower bee.

Paul

But did he?

Jenny

He did. He did. He loves hairy footed flower bees. Because when I was first talking to him about the story, he said we have to have a hairy footed flower bee in it, and I clocked that and wrote that down. I was like, right, hairy footed flower beer it is. So that's Freya, our hairy footed flower bee.

That's right. You'll have to do some study now on hairy footed flower bees. They're incredible. They're solitary bees, and they're incredible. They look for holes in, like, soft cob walls and things like that to nest. They're just amazing. So there we are, some cob walls.

So it's just lovely hearing feedback from all of our stories, actually, when people read them, when schools engage with them, to hear how they're getting on. And it's just a joy. It really is. I mean, It really is. We can do so much more together than what we can apart. And why should we be doing our own individual things when we can make much more of an impact together? It just makes sense to me. It really does.

Paul

So if schools want to reach you or businesses want to reach you for events or readings, what's the best way for them to get a hold of you?

Jenny

Probably the best way would be just send me an email at jenny@talesfrommotherearth.co.uk. If they want more information, we've got loads of information on our website. So that's talesfrommotherearth.co.uk

We're also on social media, so Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and I'm also on LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn as me, Jenny Bailey. And also we're there as Tales from Mother Earth as well.

The other thing I've done recently is also upload a lot of our workshop material, our knowledge information, our workshop agendas, all the audio, everything like that onto our website. And what schools have been doing is reaching out to us and for a very small fee, we've been giving them a yearly allowance to use our material as they see fit really.

So if I can't actually reach them to run workshops and to run reading sessions because like I said, I'm based in Kent. This allows us to reach a much wider audience where they can engage with all our material. It's all on there for them, lesson plans and workshop agendas, and samples, and all that sort of thing.

And they can just tap in to whatever they need to, at whatever test stage of curriculum the children are actually investigating whether it's many beasts or bugs and grubs or if they're looking at bees and pollinators, for instance. There's so much information there with all of our storybooks. And as I add more story books, that will be an access that I'll be able to allow everybody to share as well.

Paul

Great. Thank you so much, Jenny, for your time on this podcast. It's been really educational, really insightful, and I think inspirational as well for anybody watching this podcast to give them the ideas, you know, and to help for them to see the importance of conservation and starting early as well, with kids and helping it and how it can help to build stronger families really as well, because it's all about spending time with kids, isn't it? Over something which is really meaningful.

Jenny

Thank you, Paul. I really appreciate it. Thank you for, yeah, sharing this journey with us.

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