University of Leeds | News > Arts & Culture > Mysterious bird is subject of Leeds’ first children’s book

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A nocturnal creature with a supernatural reputation is the inspiration for a model new youngsters’s nature e guide printed by the College.

The Mysterious Chook throughout the Moonlight tells the story of the nightjar, a fowl whose soundless flight, large eyes and broad bill have given rise to folklore myths for a whole bunch of years.

The e guide has been created by award-winning youngsters’s creator and illustrator Steve Smallman, who has written better than 50 youngsters’s books along with Dragon Stew, Hippobottymus and The Lamb Who Got right here For Dinner.

“This fantastically written and illustrated e guide is sure to please every youngsters and their mom and father.”

Professor Graham Huggan, College of English

The model new publication is the first youngsters’s e guide to be printed by the College and is taken into account one in every of a lot of objects of labor produced as part of ‘Land Strains’, a analysis of latest British nature writing from the late 18th century to the present day.  The problem makes use of ingenious interventions to find environmental themes, working with most people and commissioning new nature-themed works. 

Land Strains, and its associated initiatives ‘Tracks, Traces and Trails’ and ‘Tipping Factors’, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Analysis Council, part of UK Analysis and Innovation, and the e guide is being launched as one in every of many outputs of the interdisciplinary Panorama Selections Programme.

The quilt of the e guide, and creator Steve Smallman painting the illustrations. (Footage: Land Strains; Ben Smallman)

Principal investigator Professor Graham Huggan, from Leeds’ College of English, said: “Loads of nature’s creatures keep mysterious to us, each on account of they’re so small that they’re invisible to us, or on account of they arrive out at night when most of us are fast asleep. 

“This fantastically written and illustrated e guide on one such creature, the nocturnal nightjar, is sure to please every youngsters and their mom and father, inspiring them to uncover the a lot of mysteries of the pure world.”

Lack of habitat 

Researchers from the College of English, in partnership with Pure England and Hatfield Woodhouse Major College, have taken inspiration for the problem from Humberhead Peatlands near Goole, East Yorkshire, designated a Particular Safety Space for its breeding nightjar inhabitants.

Numbers have fallen significantly attributable to lack of habitat, and the Royal Society for the Safety of Birds (RSPB) has given the fowl amber conservation standing.

Inactive by day, and properly camouflaged by its mottled plumage, the nightjar visits UK habitats for just some weeks in summer season sooner than transferring on to hotter climates. The e guide will possible be accessible as nightjars return to the UK from Africa for the breeding season.

Folklore and superstition 

For a whole bunch of years the fowl was typically referred to as the goatsucker after the weird notion it stole milk from nanny goats, inflicting their milk to point out bitter. Superstitious individuals believed them to be unlucky, fearing they’ve been a sign of demise and sickness.

Helen Acton, Principal of Hatfield Woodhouse Major College, near Doncaster, said: “This e guide has enthralled and engaged our children. Our oldest youngsters cherished the vocabulary and the attractive artwork work, whereas our little ones fell in love with the animal characters.

“We intend to utilize the e guide as a kick off point for instructing life-cycles and pure habitats in an space context nonetheless love the actual fact the ultimate phrase message is taken into account one in every of friendship.”

The Mysterious Chook throughout the Moonlight is within the shops on-line and in bookshops from Thursday 27 Could.

Additional information

Foremost picture: European nightjar (credit score rating: By Dûrzan cîrano – Personal work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Additional particulars concerning the Land Strains problem is obtainable via its web page.

For media enquiries contact College of Leeds press officer Lauren Ballinger via [email protected]

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