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16-year-old Northern Irish boy wins major nature writing prize

“When young autistic people are nurtured and accepted, miraculous things can happen,” Dara McAnulty said.

File image of Dara McAnulty at the Animal Hero Awards in 2018.
File image of Dara McAnulty at the Animal Hero Awards in 2018.
Image: Ian West

A TEENAGER FROM Co Down has won a nature writing literary prize for his book, Diary of a Young Naturalist. 

16-year-old Dara McAnulty, who began writing the book when he was 14, was awarded the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing at the online awards this evening. 

McAnulty said he was “stunned, honoured and deeply humbled” to receive the award. 

“It is an astounding moment – not just for me but for young people, young writers, young nature lovers. This tells our community that our voices matter, our ideas worthy our stories captivating,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

When young autistic people are nurtured and accepted, miraculous things can happen, and this is certainly one of them.

McAnulty was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. His book is a series of diary entries about his life and his connection to wildlife.  

Tweet by @Dara McAnulty Source: Dara McAnulty/Twitter

The prize looks for books that are narrative driven with a subject related to nature, the outdoors or travel writing and covers Britain or Northern Ireland as a central theme.  

Now in its seventh year, the nature writing award is given to the “book which most successfully inspires readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world”. 

It is awarded in partnership with the UK’s National Trust. The £5,000 (€5,514) prize fund is shared between the authors of the two winning books. 

The other award category, added for the first time this year, is focused on global conservation. It was won by Benedict MacDonald for his book Rebirding. 

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This year’s nature writing judging panel was chaired by TV presenter Julia Bradbury, known for her work with the BBC and ITV.  

Bradbury said: “Our Wainwright Prize winner this year is nuanced, passionate and caring. 

“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.” 

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