ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG NATURALIST | DAVID ATTENBOROUGH [Review]
I am one of the many many kids who grew up with David Attenborough documentaries and got wild ideas about saving rare habitats and becoming friends with orangutans. And what a good influence he’s been on me and all those other kids who developed a lifelong appreciation for the wonders of nature.
We all know David Attenborough as a gracefully ageing man with an iconic voice and a delicious vocabulary, but who was he before he became the legend?
His journey started with Zoo Quest, his first series in which he goes off to Guyana, Indonesia, and Paraguay, filming and capturing new animals for the London Zoo.
Zoo Quest was recently re-released in colour if you’re interested, and it really holds up. A truly spectacular series, especially when you realise it was one of the first programs on British television to capture real footage of animals in their natural habitats.
The whole book is delightful to read — David Attenborough does not write in fancy prose, but the narration is friendly and comforting, much like his documentaries. Throughout his travels, we are introduced to Charlie the orangutan, Benjamin the bear cub, and a whole family of troublesome and ticklish armadillos.
Interestingly, what I liked most about the book was the Introduction. While the 3 Zoo Quest stories were written in the 1950s-60s, the introduction was written much later in 2017. It is nostalgic and fascinating, and like any good origin story, it is inspiring and unique— so many good ideas and so much good luck came together to produce the Zoo Quest program, and launched one of the most famous and exciting series of documentaries to ever air on television.
The Introduction is also an enlightening piece about what filming was like back in the day. You get better footage of undisturbed animals in their natural habitat with the drones used in recent documentaries, but nothing beats the confused looks the animals get sniffing around conspicuous bulky cameras.
I highly recommend — especially if you love reading about nature but you’re feeling seriously low from climate anxiety. You don’t find much of that messaging here. Yes, those books are important, but it’s important to take a step back and just enjoy the beauty of nature as well. And there is no one better to spark your appreciation of the environment than David Attenborough.
You’ll also love…
The Sixth Extinction | Elizabeth Kolbert — yes, the title is bleak, and so is the main message. But Kolbert hsa a true passion for animals, and her descriptions of various endangered species are so special to read.
A Life On Our Planet | David Attenborough — “As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world — but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day — the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity”.
The Hidden Life of Trees | Peter Wohlleben — the flora version of Adventures of a Young Naturalist. Similar to Attenborough’s books and documentaries, the passion of the author for trees and their amazing societies can be felt through the pages. This one is an easy, warm, and informative read (with beautiful illustrations).