Diary of a Young Naturalist


Diary of a Young Naturalist is written in the year Dara Mc Anulty’s family move to County Down. He dreads this, as he does most changes. Not only will he lose proximity to the natural world about Castle Anchdale, but change is particularly difficult when you are autistic. Therefore, he works hard to deal with his overwhelming dread, alongside the myriad of emotions he experiences through encounters with the natural world.

We learn so much from this book, but mostly about the importance of staying still, listening, watching and waiting. Nature is all about us if we’d only take the time to look and listen. Furthermore, our existence is built upon instant satisfaction and accountability, so that nature can appear to be an intrusion. We are captured by Dara McAnulty’s descriptions of his encounters and observations, from the changes in leaf colour as autumn approaches, to tagging goshawks near the Trossachs. In addition, we realise our own ignorance in his observations of human behaviour, Why are school buildings so 90’s drab- I love Dara McAnulty’s suggestions for classrooms and learning? Thereafter, why are small children talked away from feathers, fallen leaves and conkers? Then there’s his poetry, his work as a young ambassador and encounters with politicians, alongside his consideration of the future of our planet.

Diary of a Young Naturalist is positive, beautiful and wonderful. Yet it is also sensitive, heart-breaking and urgent. Bookwagon recommends this outstanding book highly.

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Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara McAnulty

(Little Toller Books)– hardback

We join Dara McAnulty over a year through his Diary of a Young Naturalist. We participate in his experience of the natural world around him. Therefore we wonder at birdlife in the family feeders, see red squirrel, watch ivy on the trees and await starling murmurations. Furthermore, we are party to unfolding seasons, so as to experience the sights, sounds and changes about which Dara and his family are so aware. Thereafter, we are witness to other changes, from dreaded house and school moves, to the days out, celebration, avian experiences and a new, growing public platform.
There is something raw in Dara’s voice so that while we feel protective about him, we’re aware of our ignorance. It is as though he experiences the world with a more intense clarity. Therefore his words about the vulnerability of nature and thereafter, our heedless human damage resonate. From The Lost Words to The Wonder of Trees readers have books that inform and urge us toward action and experience. Diary of a Young Naturalist leads us so closely that we see the goshawk’s infant blue eyes, need to differentiate the hoverflies and then, feel the heartbeat of the trees.
Bookwagon urges readers toward this story. Beyond the naturalist’s diary,  is the story of a boy who has experienced misunderstanding through his differences. Thereafter, his passions (his word) and daily life, have been a vortex of chaos and cruelty. It is, as he suggests, our turn to act, rather than to read only. This book stirs us to action and understanding about the importance of our natural world.


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