The Tales of Old Billy Badger by Malcolm Ingham, a book illustrated by comics artist Mark Hetherington, is out this month, published by Beul Aithris Publishing.
A children’s novel suited for ages eight and up, it teaches young readers about wildlife and encourages them to think about nature more in depth, and Mark’s illustrations throughout are an absolute delight.
In the book, a large badger sett sits near Garth Farm, home of the badgers so beloved by farmer Mr. Harpur and just some of the wild animals filmed by Mr. Calum on his trail cameras. Here, Old Billy Badger reminisces his long life, family, and friends, while young badger cubs play around him.
Intermingled with the life of Billy and his family are the lives of the other animals – Casper the otter, who, after a hard start in life, finds his partner and starts his own family; Reynard and Muffles the foxes, raising their own cubs against the difficulties that both nature and humans pit against them; Fuzzbutt and Bramble, the rabbits trying not to become the fox family’s next dinner and a host of other characters.
Tales of Old Billy Badger tells the stories of all these wonderful creatures, vividly recreating the natural world and what it faces against the less noble traits of humans.
Creator Spotlight: Mark Hetherington
Born in Suffolk, now based in Blackpool in Lancashire, Mark Hetherington is the resident artist for Beul Aithris Publishing, a Scottish small press established in 2017, publishing a range of genres from children’s books, folkore, paranormal, history, wildlife and more.
After working as an industrial screen printer for nearly 20 years, he had to give up work due to a long period of depression. As he recovered, he enrolled as a mature student on a Foundation Art and Design course at the Blackpool and the Fylde College, passing with honours, and began a course on Children’s Book Illustration at the Univerity of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston in 2018, gaining a Post Graduate Certificate in September 2019.
As well as being an artist, he’s also a life model and has posed for many artists, photographers and life drawing classes.
Malcolm J. Ingham, also known as Mal Ingham, who wrote The Tales of Old Billy Badger, is a former Head Countryside Ranger and Wildlife Officer, having worked in wildlife conservation for 35 years.
During that time, he cared for and rehabilitated many species of wildlife including badgers, telling some of stories of that time in From Badgers to Nighthawks: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger, published by Beul Aithris Publishing in 2019, featuring illustrations by Mark, the cover a Victorian print.
Malcolm and his wife Ann live in North Wales where he monitors and studies badgers, otters and many other creatures, and gives presentations about his work both past and present, also writing articles for various journals. Malcolm also works closely with the police and the RSPCA Special Operations Unit in the fight against wildlife crime, particularly badger digging and baiting.
• The Tales of Old Billy Badger by Mal Ingham, illustrated by artist and writer Mark Hetherington is available from all good bookshops | ISBN 978-0995778467
• Buy The Tales of Old Billy Badger directly from the Beul Aithris Publishing Bookshop click here
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