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Diary of a Young Naturalist

by Dara McAnulty

Biography / Autobiography Debut Books of the Month Mind & Body - books to help you be better Popular Science The Real World

LoveReading View on Diary of a Young Naturalist

Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too.

The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! 


McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall.


This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett

Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival


Diary of a Young Naturalist Synopsis

Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty's world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head.

Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.

“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. ... In writing this book 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." Dara McAnulty

Diary of a Young Naturalist Press Reviews

This book is very pertinent. It’s a diary but essentially timeless. It’s about enduring, it’s about passion, beauty and connection. It’s really, really special  Chris Packham

Our planet and its wildlife are in a dire state, but if anyone can help save them, Dara can - and he’s bringing our generation along with him. Bella Lack

His portrait of loving parents raising three neurodivergent children on poetry, punk and puffins is profoundly moving.  Alex Preston, The Observer

Rich poeticism courses through the writing that belies his years.  Hilary A White, Irish Independent

Like reading William Blake or Ted Hughes, it really is a strange and magical experience...surely one of the most talked about nature books, or any books, this year. The Daily Mail

I adored it.  Lauren St John

'...the fanfare is wholly justified: this is an astonishingly assured book for one so young.'  Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller (Non-fiction Book of the Month, June 2020)

This lovely and remarkable book.  Charlotte Moore, The Spectator

an extraordinary voice and vision: brave, poetic, ethical, lyrical. Robert Macfarlane

Breathtaking. Philip Marsden

McAnulty's writing glows with his deep sympathy for the natural world   Tim Flannery

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781908213792
Publication date: 21/05/2020
Publisher: Little Toller Books
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781908213792
Publication date: 21st May 2020
Author: Dara McAnulty
Publisher: Little Toller Books
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 224 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, Debuts of the Month, Mind & Body, Popular Science, The Real World,
Categories: Memoirs, Natural history, Natural history (ChildrenÍs/Teenage),

About Dara McAnulty

Dara McAnulty is a naturalist, conservationist and activist from Northern Ireland. He's received many awards for his conservation work, including from BBC Springwatch, The Daily Mirror and Birdwatch magazine. He's written and presented numerous natural history programmes for BBC radio and television, and become an ambassador for the RSPCA, the iWill campaign and the Jane Goodall Institute. Dara is the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB medal for conservation. He lives with his family and Rosie the rescue-greyhound at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down. Diary of a Young Naturalist is his first book.

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