The Jay, the Beech and the Limpetshell: Finding Wild Things with My Kids by Richard Smyth - review by Tom Whyman

Tom Whyman

School of Wildlife

The Jay, the Beech and the Limpetshell: Finding Wild Things with My Kids


Icon Books 224pp £16.99

My son, who is three, loves nature. Take him to run around a park and he’ll start finding things, both real and imagined: one minute he’s spotting a bird’s nest in a tree, the next he’s found some flowers that are full of dinosaurs. Take him to the beach and he will strip off all his clothes, whatever the weather, and run headlong into the water. Give him a book just of pictures of animals and he will reel off names and facts (‘this one’s poisonous like a frog!’) to his heart’s content. When his nursery got a clutch of duck eggs to hatch the other month, he insisted on taking me into his classroom to look at them, grinning at the hatchlings with what I can only describe as quiet awe.

It’s a joy to see your child like this: longing to touch and see and smell and know the world, so clearly a creature whose intelligence has evolved in harmony with nature. So I can understand why Richard Smyth, who also has two young children, was moved to write a book about exploring nature with his kids.

Each chapter is ostensibly structured around an object – for instance, a chaffinch nest, found in September 2020, or a beech leaf of the sort found on walks in Smyth’s local wood ‘all the time’. This device works well, not least because, as three-year-old Genevieve and one-year-old Daniel

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