[McAnulty's] prose is both spirited and spiritual, performing an intensive phenomenological survey of the wildlife around his home, bringing the reader into deep, occasionally uncomfortably close communion with the insects, plants and, above all, the birds of Northern Ireland ... Any concerns I had about McAnulty’s book were dissolved by the first few pages of careful, lyrical, closely observed nature writing. McAnulty admits halfway through the book that he doesn’t 'have a joy filter' and the depth of his feeling illuminates every page of this miraculous memoir. It’s a book that succeeds in describing the deep and complex pleasure of immersion in nature ... I was reminded repeatedly while reading Diary of a Young Naturalist of the work of the great WH Hudson – a brilliant and eccentric nature writer who lived and wrote with the same deep and authentic sense of emotional engagement with nature as McAnulty ... McAnulty describes his family as 'close as otters', and the portrait he draws of loving, enlightened, unconventional parents raising three neurodivergent children on a diet of poetry, punk and puffins is profoundly moving ... McAnulty is fiercely attuned to his own moods, and at a time when we’re increasingly aware of the health benefits of the outdoors, his ability to medicate with nature strikes a powerful chord: my head is pretty hectic most of the time, and watching daphnia, beetles, pond skaters and dragonfly nymphs is a medicine for this overactive brain. A few hours reading this intimate, sensitive, deeply felt memoir had the same effect on me, lifting my spirits and giving me a great deal of hope for the future, simply that young people like Dara McAnulty are alive and writing in the world.
... a remarkable book, the most moving memoir I have read in years. Now 17, Dara wrote it when he was 14, and his knowledge at such a young age amazed me — not just his understanding of the natural world, which is immense, but of literature, of Irish history and legends, of music and politics. His writing is clear and honest, laced with analogies from nature ... What drives this book is Dara's fierce passion — for his family, for the out of doors, for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with others ... And now as I walk through my neighborhood and look at the many glorious, tangled gardens planted for pollinators and bees, or the manicured lawns with signs warning of chemical weed killers, or the great-horned owl family that roosts in the pines, I try to look with Dara's eyes and I see it all new.
Is it ageist to expect a callow book from a young author? Any such expectations will be confounded by this wise, lyrical, and well-researched book ... McAnulty’s way of experiencing the world, his candid enthusiasm, his powers of observation, his passion for nature – all are being rediscovered by a world population forced to stop short and take stock ... Post Covid-19, the issues of climate change and the Sixth Mass Extinction will remain. Reading this marvellous diary leaves me with the impression that whatever the future holds, with young people like McAnulty coming to the fore it will be in safer hands ... Little Toller has done McAnulty proud with this beautifully produced book, which features an arresting cover, tasteful black and white photographs, and a glossary. The book can be ordered directly from the publisher, and deserves a wide readership.