Category Archives: Little Toller
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
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. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.” Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”
On that showery Saturday in Hyde Park in London back in September 2018 I was among thousands of those who love wildlife that gathered ahead of a Walk for Wildlife on that day there was many speakers but among them was a young man who captivated the crowd. I thought then this was a young man with a great future. Dara McAnulty has been passionate about wildlife since he was very young and today sees the release of his debut book The Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller Books) which in a diary format looks at the 15-year-old’s year starting in Spring. Dara is the youngest recipient of the RSPB’s medal for services to conservation.
Like Dara, I became passionate about wildlife in my very young days and that love of nature has never left and through some difficult dark days it has been nature that I find helps and especially through these difficult times that we are living through.
Dara lives with his family in Northern Ireland and spend their time finding the beauty in nature through their times away from home. Nature after all is all around us. Whether it is a bird, butterfly or insect Dara will stop and wants to learn all about it. Dara is autistic and suffered the most horrific abuse from pupils at school. It is the love of his family that is his rock and is harbour during those difficult days. He also finds solace in his love of punk music.
When Dara discovered writing he poured his heart into writing thoughts on paper and when you are reading Dara’s words you very quickly become aware of just what a powerful and poetic voice Dara has. Dara wants to be heard about just what a dangerous place our wildlife is in. What struck me in Dara’s writing is just how lyrical he really is whether Dara is talking about his life or about his family or about the nature around him as he discovers through each season and through the anxiety of moving house and starting a new school, difficult for any of us but when you have autism this is multiplied on many levels. Trust me Dara will be heard and Diary of a Young Naturalist is his voice and this will inspire a new and young vibrant generation of wildlife lovers. There are many great voices in nature writing and you can now add Dara McAnulty to the list.
I cannot recommend Dara’s debut book highly enough and Diary of a Young Naturalist will appeal to readers of all ages.
*Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty will be the Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 25th May at 9.45am
Thank you to Gracie at Little Toller Books for the review copy of Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty was published by Little Toller Books and was published on 25th May 2020 and is available to order through the publisher and also through your local independent bookshops.
In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas
In mid to late March 1913, as the storm clouds of the Great War which was to claim his life gathered, Edward Thomas took a bicycle ride from Clapham to the Quantock Hills. The poet recorded his journey through his beloved South Country and his account was published as In Pursuit of Spring in 1914. Regarded as one of his most important prose works, it stands as an elegy for a world now lost. What is less well-known is that Thomas took with him a camera, and photographed much of what he saw, noting the locations on the back of the prints. These have been kept in archives for many years and will now be published for the very first time in the book. Thomas journeys through Guildford, Winchester, Salisbury, across the Plain, to the Bristol Channel, recording the poet’s thoughts and feelings as winter ends.
It is ironic that I am writing a review for a book with this title as I write yet another winter storm blows through and dark winter clouds speed past as I gaze skywards from my desk the looks out to the Somerset hills.
As the darkness of winter begins to fade and the signs of Spring are gathering pace Edward Thomas wanted to see the end of winter and find the signs of Spring but to do this he would need to travel from his home in South London. It is March 1913 as much as the darkness of winter is receding there are much darker clouds on the horizon. This was the year before the start of The Great War. In Pursuit of Spring (Little Toller) by Edward Thomas tells his story of his journey to seek signs of Spring.
As Edward Thomas began his journey on his bicycle from the suburbs of South London to Somerset this was just not going to be a journey of finding Spring but also a journey that would make Edward Thomas the poet that we would come to love. This land was very different in March 1913 in many ways but the leisurely journey he took I have known for many years. This was not going to be a journey rushed it was leisurely as he not just cycles he also walked for parts of the journey and armed with just the very basics but the most important was a notebook and pencil and a camera for the photos in this book are the very ones he took.
As a Welshman Thomas loved his homeland but loved this country and the typical English countryside. He wanted to fields and churches and typical sleepy English villages, writing and taking photographs as he went. Each county is unique in many ways and reading In Pursuit of Spring you get a sense of the poetic and yet hypnotic sense of Thomas’s writing and what was to come.
Many of the photographs in this beautiful book are of empty lanes and roads through villages, a snapshot of a moment from history. But as I read his words my heart ached for what was to come for Edward Thomas in coming years as war approached. But Thomas wanted to seek the end of Winter and welcome Spring like a long lost friend and to feel the wind and rain on his face. Stopping at various locations and reciting poetry that can be found on the pages of this book.
As he reached Somerset he found Spring and the dark clouds of Winter have departed. It was as he travelled through the village of Nether Stowey, the home of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a place in Somerset where not just my heart lies, a place I have come to love. Anyone with a passion for poetry and prose and the countryside will love In Pursuit of Spring.
In 1915 Edward Thomas enlisted in the Artist’s Rifles and was killed in 1917 in the Battle of Arras. In Pursuit of Spring was first published in 1914.
Thank you to Little Toller for the review copy of In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas
In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas was published by Little Toller and was published on 3rd March 2016 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.