Litter – a children’s story

Someone to whom I read this story suggested that it ought to be a children’s story, and so I rewrote it and added illustrations. It is set up to be on 5.5” by 8.5” paper with the appropriate illustrations facing the text. I couldn’t make this work on this blog and so the illustrations which ought to face the text follow it. I hope that this isn’t too confusing for bloggers. I invite my adult blog readers to offer suggestions on how to make it more attractive for a younger audience.

**********

Madi and Josiah were going on caravan holiday at a beach in west Scotland. It was a long drive from home. When they arrived at the Cameron farm where they planned to camp they got out of their car. They were tired, stiff, and excited. Their father asked them and their mother to stay beside the car while he crossed the farmyard to greet Mr. Cameron.

They stood and stretched and gazed at the farmyard. Presently Madi saw a black and grey cat which lay in the entrance to the barn feeding a litter of kittens. She pointed the cat out to her mother and to Josiah. They watched and listened to the cat purring and the gentle sound of the kittens sucking.

Soon the men shook hands and their father returned to them. He looked happy and asked them to get back into the car. While they were getting in he spoke,

“Our camping spot is in a field up here on the left.

During the week we will have the beach to ourselves. There will be day-trippers on the weekend but they will park in the field on the right. We can get water, fresh eggs and milk from the farm. It is idyllic!”

cat

How many kittens were in the litter?

**********

When they were back in the car he turned and smiled at his wife, and then leaned back to face his children. “This place is heaven,” he beamed, “and, oh yes, Mr. Cameron is most particular about litter. We must be careful not to leave any. The cove is beautiful, and he wants to keep it unspoiled. He says that the weekend day-trippers are a problem and asks that we help pick up after them. I told him that we didn’t mind having a holiday chore!”

After the caravan was parked and unhitched from their car their father carefully leveled it. It stood on springy marine shore grass a few feet from the beach. Then he took Madi and Josiah down to the shore to play. They paddled in the water. It was icy cold. Their mother stayed behind to prepare supper.

caavan

Can you count the birds in the air?

**********
After supper their father went outside and sat on the caravan steps. He breathed deeply and gazed at the view before him. It was close to sunset and the sun hung low in the sky as it approached the spot where it would dip into the waters of the horizon.

Madi, Josiah and their mother joined him. They sat on a blanket and ate Smarties as they watched the sun set. They breathed in clean salty air and savored the peace of nature and the happiness of their loving family.

sun2

Can you find the sun?

**********

Three days later the day-trippers arrived. Mr. Cameron spent most of the day standing at the gate into his field parking lot collecting fees. Although he had placed a barrel for rubbish, when the last visitor left the beach was strewn with trash. It ranged from coke bottles, to sandwich wrappers, and newspapers. Madi and Josiah and their parents saw Mr. Cameron sitting on a large rock where a family of five had picnicked. They walked over to him and their father said,

“No problem, I volunteered; my children and I will pick up the litter.”

Mr. Cameron looked relieved and nodded a quick, “Thank you.” He turned to face Madi and Josiah. He said, “Look carefully, for sometimes money falls out of people’s pockets and you may find it in the sand. I consider finders to be keepers!” He gave them a conspiratorial wink and left the beach. They watched him walk up the road to his farm.

litter beach

Can you find the red bottle?

**********

Madi and Josiah and their parents took bags and began their task. With all four at work it didn’t take long and soon they came to the big rock.

There, nestled under the worst irresponsible mess of abandoned bottles and bags was a new five pound note.  Five pounds was just enough money to be interesting but not so much that they might have worried about trying to return it. They decided to set it aside in case the family returned the next day and after that they recalled what Mr. Cameron had said,

“Finders are keepers.”

litter rock

Can you see the hidden money?

**********

The following day there were more day-trippers and after they left, the whole family eagerly collected trash. Their father even walked half a mile across the bay to investigate a small white object nestled in the far rocks. He explained that he thought that it might be more money but when he got close he saw that it was a white flower.

The following weekend was the same. The family was so diligent that Mr. Cameron gave them a special accolade when they departed the next Monday.

He offered them one of the black kittens, from the cat’s litter as a reward for their collecting all the day-tripper’s litter. The children enjoyed petting it but their parents said that kitten was too young for their long drive home.

flowerkittten

 

Did you spot the flower on the hill on page 9?

What would you name the kitten?

**********

Two days after the family left Mr. Cameron entertained his neighbor, Mr. Morrison. He also had a coastal farm and also augmented his income by opening his beach to day-trippers and campers. As they stood looking over the beach before supper Mr. Morrison commented,

“Your beach is so clean. How do you do it?”

Mr. Cameron pointed to the big rock,

“Someone always picnics there and so I incentivize my campers.”

“You what?”

“I incentivize my campers! First I ask them to help to keep the beach pristine, and then, on the first day, I slip a fiver in the litter next to this rock. After they find that money nothing can stop them. It is the best investment ever!”

farmers

The beach is clean.

 What color is Mr. Cameron’s sweater?

8 thoughts on “Litter – a children’s story

  1. I think it is a clever little story, and very well written. I wouldn’t be too kind to conscientious day-trippers; you are pursuing a lesson on littering and too much equivocation may cost some of its impact. I like the illustrations, too.

    • Thank you for your visit and comment. As I haven’t yet had time to work on the day-trippers I appreciate your input. My research indicates that sea-shore littering is an environmental disaster for many sea creatures. I’ve seen several pictures of sea birds whose bellies were filled with plastic causing eventual starvation; these along with other similar sad examples.

  2. I love this story and the paintings, would love it in a book for my two younger grandsons. I think the only thing that threw me was the heavy line between campers and day trippers but it seems this one was already brought up. My favorite part was the farmer placing the fiver, how clever.

    • It is too late for this on-line version but now that it is pointed out I agree that all the day-trippers wouldn’t have been litter louts. I shall amend the text accordingly as this was not a message that I wished to convey. I did want to criticize people who leave litter – it is amazing how many beauty spots are marred by casual discarded human items. I am also going to take a look at the my beach paintings with a possible revision to place the tide in different locations. It would make the beach look different but I’d hope that the rocks and land forms will still make it look like the same place. Thank you for your visit.

  3. This is a charming story, Jane and I very much enjoyed seeing your watercolor illustrations! I don’t think I can help much, though, since children’s literature is certainly not my forte.
    Some questions did occur to me as I read, mostly having to do with age appropriateness. How many kittens, birds, etc. would be for a young child learning to count, whereas the use of “litter” for kittens and also for trash on the beach would be a linguistic puzzle for a child older than that. It does seem you have drawn campers as good people, per se, and day trippers as bad. Do you want that? And the whole notion of incentivizing seems a very sophisticated notion, more proper to adults than children, and a bit more cynical than the usual business we teach of doing something good just because it’s good.
    Those thoughts journeyed through my mind as I was reading, and I only offer them because you asked. Thank you for posting such a lovely little story!

    • Hi Cynthia, thank you for your in depth comments on this story; I think that you have a point about age appropriateness of some of the concepts contained therein. It is interesting because one lady said that she thought that it might be a great story for a teacher to use in class. She said that over a week they read the same story each day and ‘discuss’ a different aspect at each reading. I did not intend to make all day-trippers bad and so may need to reword this to absolve some. Incentivizing is a sophisticated concept but we all practice it on young children with reward systems; for example, a sticker if you perform in a certain way etc. I don’t think that it matters if the play on the word litter gets lost, You didn’t comment on the use of language with such words as idyllic and incentivize, so perhaps you recall that Beatrix Potter used many interesting words such as ‘soporific’ in the ‘Flopsy Bunnies’ and ‘affronted’ in ‘The three Little Kittens’. I am going to try the story out on my three-year-old grand-daughter next week when we visit her in Honduras. Most stories which she likes include an element of repetition and musical rhythm which ‘Litter” lacks. I learn that writing for children is very difficult!

  4. That is such a great story and the illustrations are perfect. I love the questions, that will certainly get added interest from children. You have many artistic talents it seems.

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