Diary of a young naturalist by Dara McAnulty

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Text, 2020. ISBN: 9781922330000.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. A book about an adolescent's love of the natural environment of Ireland, the birds, insects, animals, the hum of life; how relevant would that be to readers in other parts of the UK, and in the case of this reviewer, on the other side of the world, in Australia? I must admit I was pleasantly surprised, I was drawn in from the first page; the descriptive language is so beautiful, and the feelings that are expressed will resonate with anyone who longs for a better connection with the natural world, and a better response to climate change. Was McAnulty really once described by an unsympathetic teacher as incapable of "complet[ing] a comprehension, never mind string a paragraph together"? This book is beautifully written and is a testament to the intelligence and perseverance of the author, the power of understanding and encouraging parents, and of the love that unites and enriches this particular family of five, all of whom, apart from the conservation scientist father, are described as autistic.
McAnulty's diary records the changes of seasons and the plants and wildlife he revels in discovering in the natural patches of country around his home. At the same time he provides insight into the anxieties that wrack him in his interactions with other people and the fears of bullying that persist from his past school experience. We learn of the challenges of going to new places, and the people noises that overwhelm him. Nature is his passion; it is the plants and birds and insects that enthral him and bring him peace. But sadly so much of the natural world is threatened by human development. And so McAnulty has become an activist speaking out to save the environment that is so precious to him. He is the youngest ever recipient of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal, among other awards, in recognition of his contributions to conservation. His book will provide inspiration to other activists to speak up on issues of climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and the persecution of birds of prey. Read a Q&A with McAnulty on the Booktopia site. Teaching notes are also available from Text Publishing.
Themes: Nature, Conservation, Autism, Activism.
Helen Eddy