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Good Reads  Natural History  General Natural History

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

Nature Writing New
By: Richard Smyth(Author)
214 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Icon Books
The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell
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  • The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell ISBN: 9781785788031 Paperback Mar 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
  • The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell ISBN: 9781785788024 Hardback Mar 2023 In stock
Selected version: £16.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Weren't they richer, rock pools, wasn't the seashore busier, when I was a kid?

Richard Smyth had always been drawn to the natural world, but when he became a father he found a new joy and a new urgency in showing his kids the everyday wild things around them. As he and his children explore rockpools in Whitley Bay, or the woods and moors near his Yorkshire home, he imagines the world they might inhabit as they grow up.

Through different objects discovered on their wanderings – a beech leaf, a jay feather, a limpetshell – Smyth examines his own past as well as that of the early natural historians, weaving together history, memoir, and environmentalism to form a new kind of nature writing: one that asks both what we have lost, and what we have yet to find.

Customer Reviews


Richard Smyth is a writer and critic. He is the author of six books of non-fiction, including A Sweet Wild Note and An Indifference of Birds, and the novel The Woodcock. His short stories have also been widely published and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Nature Writing New
By: Richard Smyth(Author)
214 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Icon Books
Media reviews

"All children are born naturalists and wedded to the living world. One of the tragedies of modern human life is that adulthood demands that we forget or suppress or deny this first love. By watching human nature: seeing his children become themselves, reporting on curious naturalists of old, reflecting on his own evolution as a nature-lover, Richard Smyth has been able to take steps towards rewilding himself and doing so he offers us all the chance to recover our inner animal selves. This is a touching book in all senses of the word, it is his tenderest book yet, and his truest. Generous, moving and alive. A gift."
– Tim Dee, author of Greenery

"Intelligent, thought-provoking and always, always interesting. Children are full of wonder but they are also full of questions, forcing us to look afresh at the world around us. What I love about Richard Smyth's writing is his willingness to engage with moral grey areas – the uncomfortable and the unexpected. He also makes me laugh. Dark and light: that's what I want from a book"
– Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment

"A searching study of the nature of curiosity, and the curiosity of nature, Smyth writes with warmth and engaging perception about our relationship and understanding of the natural world on our doorsteps"
– Jon Dunn, author of The Glitter in the Green

"Fresh and tender and playful. In truth, a book about sharing the wonders of nature with your kids could be the ickiest thing going, but it isn't that at all. It's about society and love and identity but it's also a raw exploration of the way that children experience the world and the way that those experiences challenge adult self-delusion. Nature writing can be earnest and handwringing but this book isn't: I laughed and laughed. I imagine it wasn't Smyth's intention to write a call to breed but it's hard to read The Jay, the Beech and the Limpetshell without thinking that really we should all have some children, to avoid missing out on the joy of showing them finches in the park"
– Patrick Galbraith, author of In Search of One Last Song

"A delightfully irreverent, charming and hilarious guide on how to engage young children with nature, written with a real understanding of the way they experience the world"
– Stephen Moss, author of Ten Birds That Changed the World

"Richard Smyth mixes up a rollicking and compulsively readable cocktail of memoir, environmental history, and tips for the nature-minded parent. Irreverent and earnest in perfect measure, The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell is, at heart, an ode to wonder"
– Thor Hanson, author of Buzz and Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid

"The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell is a marvellous book, in that it is full of marvels. Richard's prose is one such marvel: fast-paced, musical, and frequently very funny. So too his erudition and seemingly effortless range of reference. Most marvellous of all, though, is his loving, achingly honest commitment to bequeathing his children a world at which to marvel"
– Nick Acheson, author of The Meaning of Geese

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