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Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,483 ratings  ·  351 reviews
Every minute was magical, every single thing it did was fascinating and everything it didn't do was equally wondrous, and to be sat there, with a Kestrel, a real live Kestrel, my own real live Kestrel on my wrist! I felt like I'd climbed through a hole in heaven's fence.

An introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Chris Packham was o
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 5th 2016 by Ebury Press
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  2,483 ratings  ·  351 reviews

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First just stop and consider the cover....which looks very simple. At the center are a kestrel and a heart. From them flow waves and reverberations back? I neither considered the cover nor its significance until after finishing the book. It is a perfect cover.

Exquisite writing is the feature that stands out most prominently.

Humor, deep sadness, grief and cause for anger are to be found within these pages. Also an awakening, understanding of what has not been understood before, both for the rea
Lizzie Huxley-Jones
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am in awe. Chris Packham's memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a brutal, beautiful book that subverts the memoir genre through third person accounts of events involving him. The timeline flicks around, with the Summer of 1975, the Summer of his kestrel, playing a centralised role. Alongside that are his end-of-chapter discussions with his therapist in September 2003, shortly after attempting suicide.

While reading I saw so much of my childhood in his own, then realised he too is autistic. So
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Well, this was nothing remotely like what I was expecting...........

I'd seen some good reviews in the paper, and I enjoy watching Chris Packham on various nature programmes on TV. I was expecting a gentle memoir of a boy growing up with a love of animals which he then turned into a successful career.

Instead the book is a series of beautifully written but often deeply disturbing snapshots of Packham as he grew up. Many are written in the first person and describe his life when he was around 7 or
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book to review or even to describe but it is absolutely worth reading. Whilst described as a memoir it is more a collection of perfectly framed moments, some of which are hauntingly beautiful, others are heart wrenchingly sad and some are just downright icky. Raw, visceral, glorious, and magnificent this not at all what I expected it to be but somehow it was even better.
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Chris Packham is a well known presence on our TV screens, presenting The Really Wild Show from 1986 to 1995 and most recently Springwatch. He is passionate about all things wildlife and conservation, an interest that stemmed from early in his childhood where he developed a fascination with all creatures great, small, dead and alive. His introverted personality meant that he was a boy who didn’t fit in with anyone else at school; he was bullied, beaten up and suffered in some way every day. He wa ...more
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Chris Packham is a naturalist, nature photographer and author, best known for his television work. But in his lyrical and painfully honest new memoir, he reveals the life-events which would eventually shape him and change him forever.

Chris brings to life his childhood in the 1970s, from his bedroom bursting with birds' eggs and jam jars, to his feral adventures. But throughout his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn't u
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
I absolutely admire what he's doing here, can't fault the book on integrity and original approach but the sentences are absolutely stuffed with adjectives, I just couldn't absorb it all. Only odd sections here and there really got through to me ...more
Mark Avery
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you are expecting a book of rather sweet wildlife tales from your favourite TV personality then this book may not be for you. This is a brave and powerful book.

It’s brave because it is a self-portrait of a rather weird kid – not good with people and not a bundle of laughs, it seems. A kid who was fascinated by wildlife. This slightly weird kid grew up to be a slightly weird, and troubled, adult, and the honesty of the book is what makes it very powerful.

This book dips into Chris Packham’s chi
Unusual, honest memoir about a boy obsessed with the natural world. I can appreciate his interest in the natural world as I too had a (somewhat smaller) collection of skulls, birds eggs and the like in my bedroom and saved my money for binoculars for bird watching, but not to the extent of his obsessions.

It is a sad, lonely story but so well written and captivating even at its most brutal.
May 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Description: Chris Packham is a naturalist, nature photographer and author, best known for his television work. But in his lyrical and painfully honest new memoir, he reveals the life-events which would eventually shape him and change him forever.

Chris brings to life his childhood in the 1970s, from his bedroom bursting with birds' eggs and jam jars, to his feral adventures. But throughout his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in
Unlike any memoir I've read; written as if it were at the same time a novel and a journal, it clearly was a deep source of catharsis. A profoundly exposing and emotional journey into Chris's childhood, detailing his obsession with wildlife and the growing distance he felt to other people, but concentrating on one summer that he shared with a beautiful Kestrel, a summer that would have a deep impact on his life. It is telling of his character that this book is so meticulously and beautifully hone ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was repeatedly surprised by Chris Packham’s memoir. First by his writing, which is amazingly lyrical and poetic when describing nature. It’s beautiful, in fact, and really gives the reader an insight into his love of wild creatures. Second, by his raw emotional honesty. Parts of the book, especially those that deal with a suicide attempt, are upsetting and difficult to read. Packham appears to be working through the traumas of his childhood, periodically occupying the point of view of others o ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
2 stars

I'm so sad that I didn't like this book! I am a huge wildlife lover and think Chris Packham is brilliant at what he does on screen and his incredible knowledge of the natural world astounds me.
What I don't like, however, is his writing. I was looking forward to getting an insight into how Chris grew up with Aspergers and how his love for the natural world grew. I would have liked the book to cover his whole life up to where he is today but instead it was mainly his childhood.
I'm sad to sa
Alex Sarll
The deeply relatable memoir of a boy growing up on the edge of a nowhere town, not really grasping how people work and much happier wandering the half-wild edgelands or engrossed in his own worlds. I'd expected something like the chatty style of Packham's presenting, informative and straightforward, but no - this is non-chronological, impressionistic, almost fractured in places. Beautiful, too. When he talks about how "beneath the roots of long-gone oaks pike lay log-like in their frozen palaces ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book unlike any I've ever read.

Chris Packham is a fantastic British naturalist and TV presenter. I first saw him as a child when he presented children's wildlife programme The Really Wild Show and have enjoyed much of his work since then, including his current role at the helm of the wonderful Springwatch. I even met him when I was about 11 and won a short story competition. But there's more to the man than meets the eye as this book describes.

This isn't an autobiography, it's a memo
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham as it was a recent 99 pence Kindle bargain. I like Chris Packham and was intrigued enough to want to find out more about him.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir is well written and highly original: non-linear, multiple points of view, and rooted in Chris's Asperger's Syndrome condition.

Alas, there is, perhaps unsurprisingly, just too much about animals and nature. Much as I love both, I am not passionate about knowing every detail.

I prefer
Sarah Fletcher
Dec 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I grew up watching Chris Packham and really wanted to enjoy this book.

It’s just too slow and I gave up half way through.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Dogpiss in the Glimmerlight

The pensive reader slowly turned the crisp pages of his virgin untouched book and though apprehensive he presently found the word writing of the storyman overloaded with all the worst in the books he knew he was too smart to read. Upfalling from his warm cocoon he slowly ambled to the computing machine to make his tumultuous thoughts heard.

92% of people liked this book.

I honestly have no idea why. Were 91% of the people reading it unaware of other books? Books with
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
'Fingers in the Sparkle Jar' is unique, startling, bewildering, frustrating and like nothing else I've ever read. Completely engrossing, this is a book you wander around thinking about and then return to in a quest to understand and make sense of it. So searingly raw and revealing to be sharp and painful in places; so powerful and shining when Chris Packham describes the creatures that made his youthful world sparkle. I wanted more narrative, more connections and explanations, but realise that m ...more
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember Chris Packham from his "Really wild show" days when I was a kid and had no idea he had Aspergers.
This was a really relatable read in lots of ways and the writing was very lyrical and poetic and he seems a gifted storyteller.
The descriptions of nature, wildlife and the countryside brims with his passion for his favoured subjects.
From his childhood roaming and searching for nature specimens and animals, his home life, torturous school days, teens and a fast forward to his sessions with
C. A. Powell
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I especially enjoyed about this memoir was the feel of a kid growing up in the sixties and seventies. I could identify with all the little retro things he spoke about concerning obsolete brands and TV programmes that were all the rage. The fashion fads etc. Then through all this, is the oddball kid (Chris Packham.) Already beginning to develop a passion for the wildlife around him. The interests that make him detached from others as he lives in an almost solitary world of natural wonder. Th ...more
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love Chris. A beautiful memoir filled with a lovely balance of nature and emotion. I enjoyed the format flicking between 3 main time periods. Chris's take on what other people thought of him is unique and often quite harrowing.
I would like a memoir part 2 about his life from age 18 onwards now!
Suzanne Wren
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting twist on the conventional celebrity memoir. Told not only from Chris' point of view, but also those he would interact with - the ice-cream man, the next-door neighbors, the teacher, his school peers, and occasionally later episodes drawn from therapy sessions. It charts his obsessive phases of interest in every aspect of the natural world, both alive, and dead. Dinosaurs, rats, otters, and finally his true love, the kestrel he hand rears.
The descriptive language, in
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Let's get one thing straight first off; I have read a LOT of animal books in my lifetime, and not a few life-stories. So I think I can safely consider myself a relatively good judge of these kinds of books. Get this book. Get this book, curl up somewhere no one can disturb you, and read it. This is one of the most beautiful, raw, honest books I have ever read. Maybe it's my own misunderstood naturalist childhood that I identify with in this book, maybe it's the identification with Chris with so ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is Chris Packham’s highly acclaimed memoir, in which he talks with great honesty about his childhood, his obsession with animals and the natural world, the struggle he had feeling different to other kids, and the depression which led him to contemplate suicide.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t got change of a ladybird.’
The ice-cream man had opened the matchbox expecting a sixpence but instead found a six-spotted beetle that was now scuttling manically over his counter, defiantly
Gael Impiazzi
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I already liked Chris Packham, but like him even more after reading this brave memoir. Although there are a few passages where his descriptive prose is rather overblown, 99% of the book is entrancing and compelling. He drew me into his childhood world, poking about in the undergrowth. I collected caterpillars too (I really did, not just virtually as I read the book) but I never had a kestrel.

I'm full of admiration for Chris and his journey, and grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and enthu
Caspian Reid
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a memoir that challenged the genre of memoirs - taking multiple perspectives, leaping from moment to moment (back and forward in time), impossible to believe but so grounded and real. I'm incredibly glad I read this (via audiobook), and got to experience a little of life through the author's eyes. I'm inspired to take more joy in the world around me, to look for the magic outside my window. Juxtaposing that with intense mental health discussion was compelling, and my heart ached at the ...more
Chris Packham pours out his soul in this riveting autobiography that alternates between exultation and despair, poetry and pathos, beauty and darkness. The intensity of life for someone living with AS is shockingly portrayed and should give us all pause for thought. NTs may never be able to truly empathise but I we can walk alongside, generously, kindly, respectfully and lovingly.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Brilliantly descriptive and fascinating insight into his life as a young boy with as yet undiagnosed Asperger. So sad that he was faced with so much as a child, but demonstrated how resilient he was. However, I prefer books with less descriptions and more action!.
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, reviews
A brilliant book - poetic, stark, honest, sad, humorous - unlike any other autobiographical work I have read. Highly recommended.
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Chris Packham is a British naturalist and TV presenter and is well known for his many BBC television series since the days of The Really Wild Show through to Springwatch. He is an award winning photographer and writer, whose career has revolved around promoting public awareness of wildlife and conservation for more than 25 years. He continues to be a part of pioneering natural history television, ...more

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Some interesting news for book nerds: According to recent industry research, book sales spiked dramatically in 2020–otherwise a rather...
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“It was a pity he couldn't do an O level in beetle smell. Or rat identification, or birdsong.” 1 likes
“The day we were all allowed to bring our pets into the classroom was going to be special. It was a nice sunny morning and Batty my black mouse had been spruced up for the occasion. He was in his new second-hand plastic cage, it was mustard coloured, had the mandatory wheel and sleeping chamber but had previously been a torture chamber for my cousin's late hamster. Despite my best efforts to revitalise it the wire remained rusty in places but at least it was more secure than the wooden enclosure my father had made... and Batty had instantly, and repeatedly, chewed his way out of.
Sadly the species list for the class was a meagre four: rabbit, hamster, guinea pig and... one domesticated house mouse, Batty. They all ignored him, they cooed over the 'bunnies' and those chubby-fat tailless things whose eyes bulged when you squeezed them a bit, and queued to offer carrot and cabbage to those cow-licked multicoloured freaks with scratchy claws, but not one of the kids wanted to see, let alone hold, my mouse.
By mid-afternoon the teacher finally caught sight of the lonely boy whispering into his mouse cage in the corner and gingerly agreed to let the rodent walk onto her hand in front of the class. Batty promptly pissed and then pooed three perfect wet little pellets, the classroom erupted with a huge collective 'urrgh' and then a frenzy of giggling, she practically threw him back in his cage and then made a big deal about washing her hands. With soap. Then we were all meant to wash our hands, with soap, but I didn't and no one noticed.”
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