Austen to Zafón 's Reviews > My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
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I had seen the Masterpiece Theatre production of this book with Imelda Staunton as the mother and loved it, and we have Durrell's wonderful "The Amateur Naturalist," which details how to observe, care for, and learn from wildlife. I so enjoyed reading and laughing with this memoir of 10-year-old Gerry moving from Britain to the Greek Island of Corfu with his family and spending his days watching, capturing, documenting, and obsessing over the local fauna. Really, it's a terrific picture of a child pursuing his own interests without the stultifying aids of a classroom, desk, worksheet, or exam. His mother tries periodically to engage a tutor, but it is usually short-lived because Gerry isn't interested in much beyond biology & natural history. Durell's family is quirky (his brother Lawrence Durrell was a controversial writer) and sometimes infuriating, and the adventures and misunderstandings they have with the local people are often laugh-aloud funny. Durrell grew up to be an influential environmentalist and started the first zoo whose main goal was breeding endangered animals in captivity. It's great to peer into his early years and see his passions for animals as they were developing. I think one of my favorite aspects of the book is the names the family comes up with for animals, boats, and people. The topper is Gerry's boat, which is launched with the unweildy name of The Bootle-Bumtrinket (bumtrinket apparently being a not-very-nice epithet).
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