I have bought books from Little Toller Books in the past and I enjoy that they are a small independent publisher who offer an eclectic range of books. I receive their email newsletter which is where I first found about about this book some time ago. I decided I would pre-order a copy as it sounded really interesting and also, I hoped, a little bit different. I have paid for this book and I am under no obligation to write a review of it. As ever, when has that stopped me.
When the book arrived it did not disappoint. This book is, as the title tells you, a diary written by Dara McAnulty. This is far more than just a book about nature. Dara is autistic and a teenager living with his mum and dad and family who are clearly the centre of his world. This book is woven through with Dara's love of the natural world and grounded in his everyday of life . Dara's writing takes us through the journey of his year with great maturity and style. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book Dara thanks Adrian at Little Toller for not 'adulting' his voice. Yet this is not a book that sounds like it is written by a child, it is not childish, it is accomplished, intelligent and reflects the real passion for the things that Dara cares about.
Dara's descriptions of the natural world he explores are insightful, eloquent and lyrical. I felt that I could close my eyes and see what he saw. Dara writes with great honesty and authenticity, this is demonstrated in the book where Dara has been involved with some filming with Chris Packham. Dara reflects on how twitter has dented his confidence and made him doubt himself. Dara talks about the impact that bullying has had on him over the years and how he has to 'become me again'.
One thing I did not expect and was delighted by in the book is the frequent references to Irish folktales and how the landscape is entwined with them. I found this book to be one of knowledge and of wonder as experienced through Dara.
Very early on in the book Dara talks about where his love of nature may have come from, he says: "Nature and nurture - it's got to be a mix of both. It may be innate something I was born with, but without encouragement from parents and teachers and acces to the wilder places, it can't bind to everyday life."* I read this as an instruction that we should all take away with us, we have to be encouraging and enabling to help our children and our young people develop their love of nature and the world around us. We also have to keep that love of nature alive within all of us and this book helps remind us of that joy.
Buy this book, it will make your heart sing.
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty is published by Little Toller Books
* p 19 Diary of a Young Naturalist McAnulty D, Little Toller Books 2020