An interview with Sally Gardner about The Tindims of Rubbish Island and writing environmental books for kids

The Tindims of Rubbish Island by Sally Gardner. Book cover and author photograph


This month we sent our Parakeet subscribers the first book in a delightful new series by Sally Gardner, The Tindims of Rubbish Island, which explores our impact on the environment and inventive ways to recycle. Illustrated by Sally’s daughter, Lydia Corry, the book introduces a fun new world of characters and adventures perfect for keen young ecologists. Here we talk to Sally about what inspired the book:

What inspired you to write The Tindims of Rubbish Island?

My daughter (illustrator Lydia Corry) and I live in Hastings and are very aware of the rubbish that is left on the beach, not so much by the locals but by visitors. We wondered how we might get the message across to little people that actually throwing and leaving things on the beach is not a very good idea!

Lydia came up with the idea of a ‘rubbish island’ and I thought that it was so wonderful, after that ‘The Tindims’ came to me quite quickly.

Lydia’s illustrations really bring Rubbish Island to life – do they depict it the way you imagined it?

Absolutely. We imagined it together, so it was very much the way I saw it. I think they are just wonderful, and I am so proud of her.

Who do you think has the most important job on Rubbish Island?

I think absolutely every one of them has a role to play in the collecting of rubbish. I wanted it to be seen through the children’s eyes: Skittle, Brew and their pet Pinch.  Each book tries to focus on two or three of the characters, but they are all equal. I suppose Cup is the least helpful because she is a baby!

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I used to write in a room at the top of the house and if I craned my neck, I could see the sea.

I found that I was always falling down the stairs trying to get to the front door! So, I’ve moved to the spare bedroom which I really like. I don’t look at the sea I look at a brick wall and a bit of greenery, but I find it more conducive for working.

Why did you choose to create books for children?

Because I’m a child!

What was your favourite book as a child?

My favourite book, read to me by my stepmother, was Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. It’s not really a children’s book, it’s a grown-up book but I just adored it.

I said to a friend the other day, 'Are you Mole or Ratty?' She said that she was Ratty. I said, 'Oh well, so am I'.  She looked at me and just said, 'POOP POOP! You are definitely Toad!'

What other books with environmental themes would you recommend to our subscribers?

To be completely honest I don’t know many and the ones I have seen seem to have a really moralistic message. Personally, I don’t think its children’s fault that the world is the way it is, it’s the fault of their parents and their parents’ parents, so we cannot lay all this on their cradles. We can however help them by giving a good story so that when they see a plastic bottle on the beach, perhaps they may pick it up. I think children can smell when you are preaching to them about what they should do, they can smell it like bread and brown rice and it just won’t resonate! First and foremost, with Rubbish Island, it's a good story and each of the four books are good stories. If the series makes you think about the plastic bottle you're drinking out of, we have achieved something!


Want to join in the Tindims fun? We have copies of the book and accompanying activity pack available here.


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