Teenage author Dara McAnulty has become what is reckoned to be the youngest ever winner of a major literary award after scooping the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing with Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller).
The 16-year-old's victory was announced at a virtual awards ceremony on 8th September, with judges calling for the book to be added to the National Curriculum.
Also a winner on the night was Benedict Macdonald, who picked up a new award for books about global conservation and climate change with his “visionary” book Rebirding (Pelagic).
Now in its seventh year, the Wainwright Prize is awarded annually to the book which most successfully inspires readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world.
McAnulty's book, written when he was just 15, is a portrayal of his intense connection to the natural world alongside his perspective as an autistic teenager juggling exams, friendships and a life of campaigning
Chair of the judging panel Julia Bradbury said: “Diary of a Young Naturalist is a significant nature book – made all the more so because it is Dara McAnulty’s first, completed before his 16th birthday. Our Wainwright Prize winner this year is nuanced, passionate and caring. It's a wonderful diary that fits around Dara’s personal endeavours and family experiences, but ultimately, shaped by the nature that surrounds us all. The judges were almost breathless from reading it and would like to call for it to be immediately listed on the National Curriculum. Such is the book's power to move and the urgency of the situation we face.”
Mike Parker’s On The Red Hill (Cornerstone) was awarded highly commended in the category which also saw Jini Reddy's Wanderland (Bloomsbury Wildlife), The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange (William Collins), Dark, Salt, Clear by Lamorna Ash (Bloomsbury), Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie (Birlinn) and Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard and illustrator John Walters (Chelsea Green) shortlisted.
In the global conservation category, Rebirding was praised by chair of judges, BBC "Countryfile" presenter Charlotte Smith. She said: “Rebirding is an immensely readable book on complex and contentious issues. As you’d expect, it considers the needs of birds, but also the future of rural communities in an interesting and engaging way. While not everyone will agree with Benedict Macdonald’s conclusions, they’ll enjoy arguing with him as they read.”
Irreplaceable by Justin Hoffman (Hamish Hamilton) was awarded highly commended in the category. The shortlist had featured Life Changing by Helen Pilcher (Sigma), Sitopia by Carolyn Steel (Vintage), What We Need to Do Now by Chris Goodall (Profile) and Working with Nature by Jeremy Purseglove (Profile).
The prize is supported by Frances Lincoln Publishers, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, the Wainwright Estate and in partnership with the National Trust. The £5,000 prize fund will be shared and presented to the authors of the winning books, as well as framed trophies.
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