“If you brew your own cauldron, magic will surely happen.” – Dara McAnulty Diary of a young naturalist.
I have over the last couple of weeks read some great books that fit the Gaia nature reading challenge, including the one pictured above October October by Katya Balen and illustrated by Angela Harding. I have to confess this was an impulse buy based on that beautiful cover. October October is a Children/YA title and it has been a while since I have read a kids book, there is some amazing writing out there for younger readers and this is a prime example.
October and her dad live in the woods and they are WILD. They only need the trees and the lake and the stars and each other. Until the year October turns eleven. The year everything changes.
The year October turns eleven she finds an orphaned owl and her dad falls from a tall tree. October is thrown back into contact with her mother who left her when she was four. This is a novel about change and challenge and learning to cope. It is about stories and escape and the ability to be wild wherever you are. An easy page turning read, you are instantly drawn into October’s world, this would be a great book to share with a child or to enjoy yourself no matter what your age.
Last week I also finished the wonderful Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty The most deserving winner of the Wainwright I have ever had the pleasure of reading, a lovely book. Amazing that a boy so young can write with such intelligence, poetry and wisdom. Dara has a remarkable eye for the natural world and the importance of our connection to it. He also gives great insight into the lived experience of neurodiversity and living with Aspergers/autism. The McAnulty family also comes across as the kind of loving and supportive family you would wish all kids could grow up in.
I would love to see this book in every school library. I would love for every adult to read this book and take Dara’s message to heart. Diary of a young naturalist might be written by a teenager but it is a book that will enrich readers of all ages. Dara is the youngest winner ever of the Wainwright Prize, don’t let his age fool you into thinking this book is just for kids, it is far from it. It is a book for our age, a source of inspiration for all of us from nine to ninety.
The gap is ever-widening. It feels like a ticking time bomb to extinction. Is it any wonder that almost a quarter of young are experiencing mental health difficulties? Our world is increasingly divided between attainment, materialism and self-analysis. We’re at a tipping point in the relationship we have with ourselves, with each other, and our world. A world which is so intricately connected, so interdependent, so intrinsically linked. So delicate. The power struggle between huge organisations, economics, development and the species we share our planet with is growing so out of control that it’s easy to become overwhelmed, depressed and disconnected.
I battle with it all the time. Sometimes my heart beats as fast as a dragonfly wing, and my mental health has really suffered because there isn’t anywhere to express these feelings of despair at the inaction. My intense connection to the natural world does ease and alleviate these debilitating emotions. When I am immersed in nature I am less focussed on myself and more aware of he other organisms around me – trees, plants, birds and fellow mammals (if we’re lucky). During these encounters we experience joy and it is perhaps in these moments that I understand so clearly that we are all in a position to make sure that this magnificent beauty is cared for, protected. We are all custodians. (p.198-199)