Science, Art and Shorebirds with Milly Formby and Jackie Kerin
It’s safe to say that Jackie Kerin and Milly Formby love birds, especially migratory shorebirds, which is how they came to meet! They first hatched the idea to write and illustrate A Shorebird Flying Adventure at the Australasian Shorebird Conference when Jackie heard Milly speak about her incredible plans to fly around Australia to raise awareness of migratory shorebirds.
Milly Formby is a Migratory Shorebird Project Officer with BirdLife Australia and she’s loved birds, and bird watching since she was a child. But as her job title suggests, she has a special affinity with shorebirds!
In 2018 Milly was presenting at the Australasian Shorebird Conference, sharing her incredible plans to travel around Australia in a microlight aircraft, to raise awareness of the wondrous lives of migratory shore birds.
Jackie Kerin, who is the author of several non-fiction books for kids, was in the audience and knew a great idea for a book when she heard one!
“When I saw Milly’s presentation, I was entranced – an artist, zoologist, pilot and adventurer! I could imagine children being sparked by her,” explains Jackie.
“I saw Milly’s dream to fly with the birds as being the perfect frame for an informative and fun introduction to so many topics: flying, birds, wetlands, languages, cultures, maps, weather, biodiversity, and so much more.”
In 2019 Milly was at the Australasian Ornithological Conference, and this time our Book Publisher, Briana Melideo, was in attendance. Briana agreed that a picture book for kids about Milly’s shorebird adventures was an excellent idea. So the creative process began.
There were lots of Skype meetings, numerous drafts for both text and illustrations, and then pandemic delays affecting not just the creation of the book, but also Milly’s plans for her real-life trip. It was certainly a learning curve for a first-time children’s book creator like Milly.
“This was my first foray into the world of illustrating a children’s book so everything was completely new to me. Working with Jackie has been so much fun. I’ve learned so much from her understanding of language and communicating ideas in a way that makes sense to young readers. I also loved being able to talk candidly with one another about the text and the illustrations throughout the whole process to co-create something that really meant a lot to both of us,” shares Milly.
Jackie’s experience was essential to the process, but the creation of the book was a true collaboration.
“I’ve worked for years as an oral storyteller, visiting schools and sharing spoken stories in classrooms so over time, I’ve learned how eager children are to hear true stories.”
“Working on this book with Milly has been a joy from the get-go. I describe us being ‘co-creators’ rather than ‘author and illustrator’ as all throughout we’ve worked on the content and the expression together. I’ve written the text in Milly’s voice and it was critical to get that right so the Microlight Milly character in the book, is the same as the real Milly. It’s been a privilege to collaborate with her.”
In A Shorebird Flying Adventure you’ll take a trip to the Arctic tundra and back with Milly and her microlight. On the way you’ll meet the shorebirds who travel phenomenal distances every year and explore their precious wetland habitats and breeding grounds.
Writing, illustrating and creating A Shorebird Flying Adventure has enabled Milly and Jackie to not only share their knowledge and passions with each other, but importantly with readers both young and old.
“I’d like young readers to see how they are connected to billions of people from around the world through a global ecological network. Shorebird migration is a wonderful example of how our local environments have a place within a global context. I hope the book conveys that taking care of our environment is a way of caring for all life, that includes people, because we’re a part of nature, not separate to it,” explains Milly.
Jackie has similar hopes. “I want readers to see that looking out for birds and caring for their habitat is super fun, and I’m hoping they will be amazed, astonished and awestruck by the beauty and incredible lives of migratory shore birds. I’m hoping that children will not just enjoy the book, but also keep learning and see themselves as advocates for nature.“
See, we told you. When science meets art, awesome things happen. A Shorebird Flying Adventure is a testament to that.
Jackie Kerin is the author of several non-fiction books for children. She has an interest in connecting children to nature, encouraging their curiosity and inspiring them to become advocates for a better world. Jackie supports the efforts of The Flock OZ and you can read more about this community project on her website.
Milly Formby is a pilot, zoologist, illustrator and bird nerd! She combines these skills to create stories that empower others to become strong voices for nature. Follow Milly’s real life microlight adventure on the Wing Threads website.
A Shorebird Flying Adventure is available to purchase on our website and from all good bookstores. Free Teacher Notes are also available to download from our website.