Dara McAnulty is a 15-year-old with a deep connection to the natural world. Being immersed in nature is his salvation – a place of peace in an otherwise bewildering and overwhelming world. He writes with skilful detail of the Irish countryside and its creatures, showing us the intensity of his feelings as he switches from joy and wonder to frustration and anger. Over the course of the four seasons he presents a strong case for why humanity needs wild places and shows how bereft we will be if they are all destroyed.
Dara lives in Ireland and his love for nature has earned him a huge social media following from around the world. He has received numerous awards, acknowledging his influence and inspiration as an activist. In 2019 he became an ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute and the youngest ever recipient of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal for conservation.
Dara’s family are an important part of this story too. Dara, his mother and his two siblings are autistic and the challenge of managing their daily life is described in detail, expanding the reader’s knowledge and providing insight into the exhausting daily struggle of individuals and families.
Dara does not define himself by his autism even though bullying and other distressing experiences of childhood have left their scars and cause him to reflect on his life’s worth. Ultimately, he has overcome prejudice and misunderstanding to become an influential international figure in the climate wars, so it is an enlightening journey through this year of diary writing and self-discovery.
Dara’s intensely personal experiences serve to demonstrate some of the issues with which our wider communities are engaging, in particular the disconnection from nature that is now part of so many of our lives and the psychological and physical manifestations that causes. His writing provokes reflection by the reader and left me thinking deeply about the bigger picture of humanity as well as my own personal situation.
Adults will enjoy this book for its beautiful prose and poetry, the insights into autism and the view of our delicate and changing planet from a child’s perspective. It may even inspire a holiday to experience the wild creatures and places of Ireland, once we can travel again. In the meantime, this book can transport you to a rainy green hillside or a deeply dark fir forest. I’ll certainly be taking more notice of the insects and birds in my own outdoor spaces – Dara’s writing has inspired a new way of seeing the natural world!
Teenagers will enjoy this book for personal reading and relaxation, especially those with an interest in becoming more active in environmental efforts, those who may have experienced feelings of difference and ostracism, or teenage boys whose own experiences are under-represented in available books and stories. There are moments of dark thoughts that show we are not alone in our existential imaginings, but ultimately this is a story of hope and finding your purpose.
There is no doubt this book will be enthusiastically received by educators as there are rich themes to explore from this book as a springboard to conversations, such as the rise of teen activism, climate wars, environmentalism, autism and other difference, developing self-awareness through the transition from child to adult, connection to nature and place, folklore and science as opposing influences, prejudice and bullying in society.
I would recommend this book for ages 12+ and adults. This book will cross over between adult books and children’s books so search in both locations in your bookstore.