Memoir

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Image is of the cover of the book Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Cover features a young boy walking along the beach with his backpack on and a bird soaring overhead. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

This is the diary of a year in the life of Dara McAnulty; a fourteen year old boy, growing up in Ireland, with a deep love of nature. Through the turning of the seasons, Dara’s observations of nature are told with childlike wonder and amazement, but also with wisdom and insight that belies his years. 

Dara lives with his mother, father, sister and brother. They are a very close family, together sharing a love of adventure and nature. Everyone in the family is autistic, except for Dara’s father. His parents were once told that Dara would ‘never be able to complete a comprehension, never mind string a paragraph together’. In actual fact, writing helps him make sense of the world. In Diary of a Young Naturalist, Dara’s words are poetic, heartfelt, brave, compassionate and inspiring.

Woven alongside Dara’s observations of nature in each changing season are typical teenage and family events. He is very honest about the bullying he has endured at school up until this point. At the end of Spring, the family relocate to the east coast of Ireland, Dara starts a new school and is finding his place in the world. He is invited to go on field trips with conservationists. 

Increasingly, his connection to nature brings a stronger need for awareness and conservation. His frustration, disappointment and feelings of helplessness in regards to the protection of nature and wildlife are shared by many of us, and in his book, Dara urges and inspires us all to keep taking action, to keep caring.

The feelings of so many of us, young and old. Those of us that care. We feel it, every hour of every day. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting, but it’s vital to keep pushing on, doing heartfelt things.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara notices and knows so much about the natural world around him; from the tiniest bug to the oldest trees; from birds of prey to the regular feathered visitors in his backyard garden. I wanted to read this book slowly; to absorb all of Dara’s observations and relate them to my own, here on the other side of the world in Australia. I wanted to stop and look and appreciate the nature that exists alongside us everyday. There is a lot of solace to be found in nature. It’s the antidote to our busy, anxiety-filled lives. Dara’s observations plug you into nature, prompting a stillness and awareness that connects deeply with your heart.

‘We all have a place in this world, our small corner. And we must notice it, tend to it with grace and compassion.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

I love the navy blue hardcover of this book, the typeface and the texture of the pages. I love that it’s in the form of a diary and that the young naturalist’s year is divided into the seasons. At the end of the book is a delightful glossary which includes the pronunciations of words in both English and Irish Gaelic. The inside front and back cover has a rough map of Northern Ireland indicating several places mentioned in the book.

Diary of a Young Naturalist is a small book that gives so much. I simply adore it.

Published 2020 by The Text Publishing Company, 288 pages.

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