Macmillan Children’s Books has acquired two non-fiction titles by naturalist and activist Dara McAnulty. Gaby Morgan, editorial director, bought world rights from Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown.
The first book, Wild Child, aimed at readers aged 7+, will be published in hardback in July 2021 and will be a family friendly guide to British and Irish nature to encourage young and old to get outside and explore the natural world around them. It will be illustrated in colour by Barry Falls. The second book, as yet untitled, will follow in spring 2022. Both will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Books division.
Wild Child begins in McAnulty's own back garden and takes the reader to hills, woods and ponds, pointing out his favourite animals, flora and fauna. He explains all elements of the environment that fascinated him at a younger age and which continue to do so now. It includes explanations of migration and metamorphosis, categorization in the animal kingdom and fantastic facts on native birds, animals and plants.
Each section finishes with an activity for readers to do when they get home: plant wild flowers, make a bird feeder, try pond dipping and build a vivarium. McAnulty ends the book with advice for young conservationists and how to follow the countryside code.
The author won the 2020 Wainwright Prize, the non-fiction prize at the Books are My Bag 2020 Readers Awards and the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Irish Book Awards for his debut, Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller).
Commenting on the deal, he said: “Writing for younger children is a very special kind of conversation you have with your inner self. No word is wasted and each one carries such weight. Writing Wild Child and working with Gaby and everyone at Macmillan has been a truly delightful and rewarding experience. As a teenage author, it is such a privilege to have been afforded the opportunity to send a heartfelt message to younger children, to invite them into a world which is and always has been theirs to explore and learn from.
"I really hope that many children and parents will gain a different perspective and a new way of looking at nature on, or near, our doorsteps. I’m also wildly excited to connect with younger readers and families, to hear their experiences and if there are barriers to accessing nature. I’d really like to explore how we can narrow any gaps there might be. Together.”
Morgan added: “Dara is one of the most exciting nature writers of the moment and in this astonishingly beautiful book he takes us on an amazing multi-sensory nature walk. He shows us how extraordinary the natural world is and how urgent it is that we act now to preserve it. It is such a joy to be working with Dara and Barry and I cannot wait for everyone to join us on this expedition.”
Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, publisher at MCB, said: “Dara has a unique voice, being able to convey the beauty of nature through detailed observations with a touch of poetry. Combined with Barry Falls' striking illustrations, Wild Child is the perfect book to encourage the whole family to engage with nature together. This is a very special acquisition for Macmillan Children's Books, close to our hearts.”
Falls said: “As a reader, I’m excited by the way that Dara writes about nature, and how his use of language and rich visual imagery sets him apart from everyone else. There are a lot of beautiful non-fiction books aimed at a younger market, but none of them offer Dara’s unique perspective.”