‘Is February, we ask ourselves, any better than January?’
Roald Dahl thinks maybe yes, because if you can battle through it then the worst of the winter is probably over, and this fierce and bitter month will yield to March and the approaching spring. My Year by Roald Dahl is a warmly conversational guide to the changing seasons of the English countryside. Inexplicably out of print for several years, this charming new edition is a must for Dahl fans and young nature enthusiasts alike.
Written shortly before his death in 1990, this is Dahl’s final work. A lifelong nature lover, he had amassed notes on the habits of woodland mammals, on butterflies, birdsong, and the peculiarities of the changing seasons. Here they are presented as a month-by-month guide, wonderfully illustrated by (who else?) Quentin Blake.
Spring skips towards summer, bringing skylarks, hawthorn blossom, and the foxglove, possibly the most beautiful wildflower of all. August however, is torpid, nature suspended motionless ahead of its slow descent into winter.
These vivid observations are interspersed with anecdotes and thoughts. Dahl’s musings on the humble mole are charming. Did you know that they have to eat half their bodyweight in insects every day just to stay alive? His fondness for these ‘busy little creatures’ is palpable, but cuckoos are considered murderous and magpies a little unhinged.
Fans of Dahl’s autobiographies will appreciate his robust and colourful outlook on life. Hearty outdoor risk-taking is much applauded, as are pranks and escapades fired by the ‘enthusiasm that grips all great inventors.’
When September arrives with its branches of apples, he wonders why modern children no longer want to climb trees to pick them. A melancholic thought that gives way to a cheery vision of autumnal ladybirds settling down for the winter ‘in cosy niches and in the corners of windows.’
A collaboration between Penguin Random House and the Roald Dahl museum, My Year is available only via the museum and is an essential for all fans of this remarkable and enduring writer.
My Year by Roald Dahl is published by Puffin.