A Wild Child’s Book Of Birds by Dara McAnulty, illustrated by Barry Falls

Publication Date: 15 September 2022

The Blurb

Join brilliant young naturalist Dara McAnulty – winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for his book Diary of a Young Naturalist and author of Wild Child! – on a journey through a year in the life of birds. A Wild Child’s Book of Birds is a fantastic nature book, illustrated in full colour by Barry Falls.

This beautiful, informative book takes you through a year in the life of the birds you will find in Britain and Ireland and is divided into four sensational seasonal sections. Find out what birds do in each season, learn about birdsong, beaks, nests and eggs, the science of flight, migration, what to grow to attract different birds to your garden and what foods to put out on your bird table. Discover different ways of recording what you see and about birds in literature. There are sections on birds of prey and corvids too.

The Review

As a huge fan of Wild Child, I was delighted to learn that A Wild Child’s Book Of birds was on the way. Dara’s passion for all things avian shines through the delightful poetry that opens each season, and the cornucopia of facts presented in stunning double page spreads, all illustrated in intricate detail by Barry Falls.

Dara’s warm style presents facts in a highly engaging way, allowing readers to digest the information and examine their own knowledge. The section on songbirds made me stop and think about the birds I’ve been watching in my own garden this year, and the sections on birds of prey and corvids took me back to the school field before summer when crows took on a pair of nesting buzzards.

Igniting curiosity and inspiring further investigation, there are a myriad of uses within schools, from writing and science to art and outdoor learning, on top of the sheer joy that it brings as a non-fiction pleasure read with plenty of guidance to make your outdoor space at home as bird friendly as possible. And, if you don’t have an outdoor space, there is plenty of advice to help you make the most of parks near your home.

A must for schools, a perfect gift for a budding young naturalist and a fantastic accompaniment to fans of M.G. Leonard’s Twitch series.

The Guest Posts: Favourite Spreads from A Wild Child’s Book Of Birds

Dara McAnulty

My absolute favourite spread is the opening for Winter. It perfectly imagines the feeling of aloneness and peace. The space around the words leaves so much room for imaginative possibility of what is behind the fog. The breath coming from the child and the light formation of a thought bubble coming from above their head. The way the fence fades into the mist, the dusting of snow on the treetop, it really calms me. It has the most subtle detailing of all the spreads for me. The long-tailed tits on the telephone wire, the green light breaking through, my beloved Mourne Mountains in the background. It also includes Rosie, our rescue greyhound, paw deep in a puddle by the side of Wild Child, which is just perfect. I love it beyond any other spread. It feels magical, with so much scope for the imagination.

Winter is my favourite season, you can see the birds move around the sculpted bare branches of trees, everything becomes more visible and sparse. I love the earthy grounding you feel in Winter and Barry just captures that with such clarity, it takes my breath away.

Barry Falls

One of my favourite spreads in the book is also the last spread that I worked on – the ‘captivating corvids’ spread. I’ve always loved the corvid family, and growing up in rural Ireland it felt like the distinctive call of the carrion crow was ubiquitous in a childhood where I spent a lot of time outdoors, either playing in the fields around my house, or (reluctantly!) helping out my dad and older brother on the family farm. Ravens, crows, rooks and magpies… these big, confident birds are everywhere in the countryside, and although they don’t have the most colourful appearance, they are nonetheless captivating.

It was a joy to bring them onto the page. I was amazed to find that the Jay is a member of the corvid family – amongst the corvids it definitely stands out as being the most colourful, with those beautiful wing feathers that I’ve drawn a few times now, both for this book and for the previous Wild Child. This was quite a tricky spread to work on; Dara had so much to say about these birds and so there was a lot of text to fit in around the illustrations. I also wanted to make sure that the page didn’t become too dark with all those black feathers, so I created lots of little areas of colour that would offset the black bodies of the birds.

About The Author

Dara McAnulty is a teenage autistic author, naturalist and conservationist from Northern Ireland.

After writing his blog Naturalist Dara for over three years, he published his debut book, Diary of a Young Naturalist, which won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, and was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize – the youngest ever author to do so.

Dara then went on to win The Booksellers Association Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Non-fiction, the An Post Irish Book Awards Newcomer of the Year, and his last award (so far!) was the British Book Awards Narrative Non-fiction Book of the Year. An incredible, record-breaking achievement for a teenager yet to sit his A-levels.

Dara is a passionate and fervent campaigner for the natural world and dedicated fundraiser, volunteer and wildlife recorder. He lives with his family and Rosie the rescue greyhound at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down. Follow Dara on Twitter @NaturalistDara, and find out more about him on his website.

About The Illustrator

Barry is an award winning illustrator and artist from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He provides illustration for editorial, design, advertising and publishing.

He was born in Dungannon, Ireland, and studied Graphic Design at Ulster University before moving to London in 2006 and began representation with Heart Agency in 2007. He now lives and works in Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

Barry works with a variety of pen, pencil, paint and found materials. Sections of a drawing are created individually and then assembled on the computer like a digital collage. Texture and vibrant, saturated colours are a hallmark of his work. Facial expressions, and nuances of gesture or posture allow for the creation of a complex personality within the context of a ‘simple’ drawing. Barry’s love of drawing animals and flora is apparent in much of his work.

His aptitude at finding a compelling visual to accompany an abstruse subject, has led to repeat work for The Lancet medical journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times and The Financial Times. As well as editorial, corporate and advertising work, Barry has also produced books cover for Faber & Faber, Random House and Macmillan and illustrated short stories in The New Yorker. His first picture book for young children, It’s Your World Now!, was published in May 2019.

Huge thanks to Dara McAnulty and Barry Falls for their insightful guest posts which show just how much detail can be found in the very different spreads they have picked out, and to Macmillan for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.

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