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Diary of a Young Naturalist Reviews

Diary of a Young Naturalist  by Dara McAnulty

Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara McAnulty

4.70 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Little Toller Books
Publisher: Little Toller Books
Publication date: 25 May 2020
ISBN: 9781908213792

Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty's world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. Diagnosed with autism at age five these vivid diary entries portray his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendship alongside a campaigning life.

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5 stars out of 5
Caroline Sanderson
6 Mar 2020

"the fanfare is wholly justified: this is an astonishingly assured book for one so young"

"I was diagnosed with autism aged five... By age seven I knew I was very different... Nature became so much more than an escape, it became a life support system." At 15, Dara McAnulty from Northern Ireland is already a star of the conservation movement, with Chris Packham and Robert Macfarlane among his many fans. Creator of a blog entitled "Naturalist Dara", he received an Unsprung Hero Award from BBC's "Springwatch" in 2017; and was crowned "Animal Hero of the Year" by the Daily Mirror in 2018. In 2019 he became a Young Ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute and was the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB Medal. Not surprisingly, there is already a great deal of fanfare surrounding this, his first book which will be BBC Radio 4 "Book of the Week", with appearances for Dara already booked at the Hay, Cambridge, Cheltenham and Edinburgh festivals. And the fanfare is wholly justified: this is an astonishingly assured book for one so young. Charting a year in his life from spring to winter, it beautifully and candidly conveys his intense connection to the natural world, from the perspective of a teenager juggling exams, family and friendship alongside his campaigning. He smashes stereotypes about autism, alongside gorgeous observations of everything from dandelions and wagtails to goshawks and horseflies. May it be a bestseller, not only for the extraordinary Dara, but for Little Toller Books, long one of my favourite indie publishers.


4 stars out of 5
13 Jun 2020

"an impassioned and original plea for protection for ‘our delicate and changing biosphere’."

When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, as the useful saying goes. Having autism doesn’t automatically result in this close bond, but it often does involve an obsession, or passion, of unusual strength and depth. Dara, whose name means ‘oak, wise, fruitful’, has done a public service in revealing his autistic passion to us. And Little Toller Books are to be congratulated on having the wisdom to publish this lovely and remarkable book.

4 stars out of 5
Alex Preston
7 Jun 2020

"There are echoes of the great WH Hudson in an autistic teenager’s intimate reflections on the complex pleasures of immersion in nature"

McAnulty is fiercely attuned to his own moods, and at a time when we’re increasingly aware of the health benefits of the outdoors, his ability to medicate with nature strikes a powerful chord: “my head is pretty hectic most of the time, and watching daphnia, beetles, pond skaters and dragonfly nymphs is a medicine for this overactive brain”. A few hours reading this intimate, sensitive, deeply felt memoir had the same effect on me, lifting my spirits and giving me a great deal of hope for the future, simply that young people like Dara McAnulty are alive and writing in the world.

5 stars out of 5
28 May 2020

"Like reading William Blake, or Ted Hughes, it really is a strange and magical experience"

I’m tempted to say there’s something ‘shamanistic’ about the way he sees the natural world, if it didn’t risk sounding a bit pseudo. But I can’t help thinking it all the same. There really is something of that old American Indian ‘Brother Wolf, Sister Moon’ sensibility here: a feeling of magical kinship with other animals and plants and natural phenomena, although he also possesses a great store of detailed scientific knowledge, too. This is no mere dreamer; and, like the American Indians, he’s no sentimentalist about nature either.

5 stars out of 5
19 May 2020

"Reading this marvellous diary leaves me with the impression that whatever the future holds, with young people like McAnulty coming to the fore it will be in safer hands"

Is it ageist to expect a callow book from a young author? Any such expectations will be confounded by this wise, lyrical, and well-researched book. And why will this diary transcend the current crisis? McAnulty’s way of experiencing the world, his candid enthusiasm, his powers of observation, his passion for nature – all are being rediscovered by a world population forced to stop short and take stock. As soon as Covid-19 restrictions were announced in Ireland, people swarmed to the parks, beaches, woods and mountains in such numbers that social distancing became impossible. We know instinctively where solace is to be found.