Our Fort

Our Fort
Marie Dorléans (translated by Alyson Waters)
New York Review Children’s Collection

Not so much a fort, rather a den, is how I’d describe the ultimate destination of the three children who celebrate the arrival of spring with a visit to their camp.

The story is really more about their journey than the construction they sally forth to find. Their walk takes them past sheep in a field and through billowing grass fields that almost engulf them. After a pause to share some cookies, the sky darkens and a wind storm blows up

and the three – full of ideas about potential adventures – have to fight their way forwards until the storm eventually blows itself out. With concerns about the fate of their fort after such a violent wind, on they go to their haven, which happily has withstood the onslaught and is ready and waiting for their arrival.

As we readers follow the children out through their front door, we too feel immersed in the countryside.

It’s as though we’re also making our way onwards and upwards in Marie Dorléans’ delicately worked, realistic rural scenes of her beautifully observed celebration of children’s ability to observe with all their senses and to find delight in the natural world around them, storms and all. Oh the joy of childhood’s freedom in a rural environment – a joy many adults rediscovered during the covid lockdowns of the past couple of years.

Wild Child

Wild Child
Dara McAnulty and Barry Falls
Macmillan Children’s Books

This is such a beautiful book written by award-winning author of Diary Of A Young Naturalist and gorgeously illustrated by rising star, Barry Falls.

With his distinctive voice, Dara McAnulty invites readers to take a close look at the world around, journeying into and exploring with all your senses, the five different locations that he describes both poetically and scientifically.

First off is a look through the window, after which we go outside into the garden, wander in the woods, saunter up onto heathlands and meander along the riverbank. At each location we pause while Dara provides a lyrical introduction to the habitat followed by a wealth of factual information about the wildlife – both flora and fauna – to be found there.

This includes a discovery spread where in turn, you can learn the collective nouns for eleven different birds,

take a look at classification, find out how various trees propagate

and about migration and metamorphosis.

An activity to do once you get home concludes most sections: make a bird feeder, make a terrarium, create a journey stick (I love that).

Assuredly this will help any reader, young or not so young, connect more deeply with the joys and wonders of the natural world, and find their inner wild child.

The author finishes with some sage words about the fragility of nature and caring for the countryside, plus a glossary.

Altogether a smashing book for families and schools.