Sarah Devos from Belgium wrote a forest book, in Dutch: Het bosboek. I follow her on Instagram and already saw she has an unusual approach to nature. An approach I like 🙂 I asked her for an interview and was allowed to have an early peek in her book: love it!
Sarah studied communication management, first had a job in tourism, then at a university and did some freelance copy writing on the side. Finally she decided to become a full time copywriter and editor, which was her childhood dream. She wrote a funny children book series, but also edited or composed books about menopause, traffic or crafting. Whatever the subject, if she can learn something from it, it is okay, she says. “And that has been fine for me. It is also a good combination with our two daughters of 4 and 6.”
So why did you write a forest book now?
“I read ‘The Last Child in the Woods’ by Richard Louv. What I already felt, was again his message: we humans are in need of green! It’s good for you, you recover faster from illness in a green place, people are less aggressive when they stay in a green environment, you are more productive when looking trough a window with a view on green rather than a wall… All those things plus the questions my toddlers asked when we walked through the woods – and I could not answer them properly – did ring a bell: everybody is enjoying a walk in the woods, but we all are doing that too little. And do we actually know what we see, and do we understand where we walk past?”
How did you start?
“As I used to be an ‘indoor child’ myself, I now immersed myself in the woods, followed a short training ‘accompanying children in nature’ and read all the books I could find about this subject. That’s how I discovered that there are many more good things to tell about the forest, but they often are presented in a way either focused on children or presented in a dull way. So I decided to make a beautiful forest book myself, for everyone that likes to be in the woods. With the help of Dirk Fiers, a very cool, enthusiastic nature guide.”
Who will enjoy your book?
“It is really for beginners, as I’m still one. You still remember something from elementary school, about weed and those lobed oak leaves, but what about that again? And no, you really do not have to sit in a bird watching cabin at 4 o’clock in order to recognize something from the book – although that’s nice to do too! – It’s really the intention that you’re going in the woods to spot something you’ve seen in the book. I have written it for anyone who wants to know more about what lives and crawls and flies, and what you could encounter on a Sunday forest walk. I give tips for walking alone, walking with children, show how to make forest presents, and tell you where and how to find some tremendous animals.”
What will happen?
“You will be so happy to recognize something new for the first time. The forest will come to life to you. You will realize what a wonderful place a forest really is and you will understand better how important green is. The more you get to know, the more layers ‘your’ forest gets.
In the past, a forest was not more than a static decor I walked through. Now I’m aware of what a dynamic place it is, where everything is extremely intelligent. How each animal, each plant has its own place and importance and function: it is all miraculous. I also make appointments in the form a forest walk, or invite people for a forest picnic, or a search trip. And everybody is enthusiastic and amazed about the beautiful nature nearby, they discover you do not really have to travel to the other side of the world. I hope more people will get that reflex to settle in nature, for a meeting, a day off, or a little get-together.”
Do we all have to go to a real forest?
“I see ‘forest’ in the broad context. Some people only have a park nearby, so they also find inspiration in my book. There are animals and plants in the green edge of the city and even a smaller urban park.”
You also have designed a search card for children, which is not as dowdy as you often see in standard nature organisations, what is your philosophy about learning about nature?
With a smile: “There are seven search cards to download for free on my blog – and I think the ‘jakkiedingenzoektocht’ (freely translated as the ‘yukthings ticklist’, KS) is the most popular one.
The smaller, the better, my daughters show me. The slightest detail they often spot first. I think that’s fascinating and so I always learn more when I am with them. And then the fiery feeling they give me when they call ‘Look! A blue tit! ‘ And the pride that they learned to recognize, that’s just blissful. Climbing trees, getting scratches and bruises, stirring with a stick in the mud, building stone ponds in a river, being quiet and listening to what you hear what’s around you… It’s nice to notice that children are still becoming incredibly happy in nature. And that you do not have to go to a gigantic amusement park or pick up your tablet to make fun. Like my oldest daughter responded recently when we walked somewhere on a trip, after my husband had said: ‘Look, Anna, here’s nothing at all!’ she responded: ‘Huh? But daddy, here’s just EVERYTHING.’ ”
Information about Sarah’s forest book
Nice to know: for the first time, Sarah also made her own illustrations. “Very uncertain, but encouraged by others. I am very happy that the book is now 100% made by me! The drawing was incredibly fun to do.” The drawings are very cute and instructive.
Sarah’s book is packed with tips about the best moments, a suitable outfit, good habits, what to take with you, weather conditions (and forecasting yourself), knowing what time it is without a watch, rainbow spotting. Then she draws you into the wood with interesting and accessible facts on trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, birds, mushrooms, fruits and seeds, insects, slugs and worms and other little forest creatures, even frogs and snakes. Also: the larger animals like mice, squirrels, bats, foxes (of course, as Sarah’s family name is Devos, which means Thefox), hedgehogs, deer and more! She learns you in an easy way how to recognize them, how to discover and read animal tracks like poo and paw prints.
How lucky the Dutch readers are to be the first to enjoy this book, all other world citizens only have to wait for a translation. Het bosboek is published by M-Books and costs € 24,95.
Related article on this blog about forest fun
Also have a go on the article about bush pic hunting.