Why We Should Teach Our Children About Unusual Animals

Have you ever heard of an Axolotl? Known as the “walking fish” this almost translucent aquatic creature is actually a salamander that retains its juvenile form with visible gills into adulthood. It’s also the first animal in my Wild ABCs collection of paintings, inspired by my four-month-old son (who’s already growing so fast I wish he could remain in his baby form forever, rather like the Axolotl).

I could have gone for the conventional A is for ant or B is for bear in this series, but I believe there’s added value in teaching the next generation about more than just the obvious. The natural world is vast, varied and often a little bit weird, and Wild ABCs will highlight 26 of nature’s more colourful characters, from the axolotl to the ovenbird.

Our children have the right and the privilege to experience the natural world in all its complexities. I might have grown up an urbanite, but I was constantly engrossed in nature, whether through encyclopedias, documentaries, trips to Twycross Zoo in the summer, or painting animals for myself. And when I could, I discovered nature for myself in Patagonia. Now, I live on the island of Malta, where the biggest land mammal (apart from domestic animals) is a hedgehog. But does that mean my son should only learn the names of hedgehogs and rats?

It doesn’t matter where or how we grow up, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to what’s underneath our window.

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