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.