When I was a child we had few books in my house.We used the library. My reading was slow, very behind my age, until I caught the trick of it.
One Saturday I took my pocket money to W H Smiths and bought a small paperback.
First published in 1927. Dense words on the page, hard for me to read, but oh how my love of otters took me down to the river bank, not in the anthropomorphic Wind in the Willows way, but in the submerged in the wild, deep swimming , swift hunting, tooth and claw way. Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers. With illustrations by C F Tunnicliffe. Seventeen times revised as a whole and rewritten, it tells the life of the river where the humans are a sideshow, usually bringing death. How I read it then I will never know but I think the book picked me up in its teeth like an otter cub and carried me through. And I loved those illustrations. Still do. And the words are a prose poem of the natural world.
Now I have a new-old copy, the same as the edition I read, prompted to re-read by the inclusion of the book into the shortlist for The Nation’s Favourite Nature Book.
Am I proud to be on that list too? Yes. And also in awe of the company. Have I voted for my favourite nature book? Yes.
Which one was it?
Obviously not The Wind in the Willow, but it is a tale of the river bank.
You can vote here, at the Land Lines website. If your favourite isn’t on there I would love to hear what inspired you, stayed with you, or you’ve recently found a new book, one that you love, that will stay with you for life. Tell me.