Sunday, 11 April 2021

Review: The Magnificent British Garden Robin (in his own words)

 On the blog page for my novel We Are Villains All, I included this gorgeous illustration...

It comes from a Victorian natural history-type book called Creatures of the Night by Alfred W Rees and I imagine the aim of it was to bring the animals to life for the reader.  I'm a huge fan of such books as they are wonderfully illustrated and teach you a lot about animals you see everyday.  There were scores of them, all gorgeous and fascinating...

...and of late the genre has made a bit of a reappearance as we all slow down and take more time to appreciate the beauty that is on our doorstep (especially in the last year when that is about as far as you are allowed to go).  A couple of Christmases back I bought this little book on robins...

And so I was delighted when I was approached to review a new book on our red-breasted friends.  Not only is the new book on robins, it was written by an actual robin himself.  I am a fan of primary evidence, so I was delighted to read more...

I'm just guessing but this has to be one of the first autobiographies written by a bird I have ever read.  The entire mechanics of how Mr Robin writes are not a problem as far as I'm concerned (far less problematic than how Mr Pusskins uses a phone in the seminal Mr Pusskins by Sam Lloyd) and who better to explain a year in the life of the nation's favourite little bird and a constant visitor to all of our gardens?

The book has a lively Deco feel to it, and it's split into the four seasons, explaining how robins live, love and feed in different parts of the year. For example, it's rather joyous to think as Spring creeps upon us that there are tiny feather-y folk building nests and warming eggs in our gardens as we speak.

I own chickens and so spend many a happy day carrying a hen around, and the subject of their ears has always puzzled me.  I mean, really, where are they?  And how can their hearing be so sensitive that they know when the end of a croissant is not going to be eaten? Honestly, it's just one of the many mysteries of birds, but I do feel a little more educated after reading this book and had a lot of fun doing it.

The illustrations are plentiful and delightful.  I'm a massive fan of Edith Holden (as testified in this post) and so appreciate a well-illustrated nature book.  You will be charmed and disarmed by the little robins and so impressed by their writing skills...

Included in this book are pages on the history of robins and their names through the ages, the Christian iconography and frequent appearances in Victorian paintings. One of my favourite things is spotting the little robin in Millais' Ophelia...

Sort of top-left-ish, in case you were wondering.

There are all sorts of handy, practical things you can learn from this book, from building your own bird bath, to what to feed the little chaps and when. Nothing in my garden can compete with my massive sparrow army, but when my robin does appear, I like to think I'm helping his survival with the food I leave out and I hope he sees at least a few of the mealworms (although with my hens around, it seems a little doubtful).

This is a charming book and perfect for a summer read while we are mostly home-based. It's good to have a greater appreciation of our surroundings and not to come off too Park Life, caring for the wildlife does give you a feeling of enormous wellbeing. I think we could all do with a bit of that right now.

The Magnificent British Garden Robin can be purchased from Amazon UK here and USA here now.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for writing about this, Kirsty. I'm really happy you enjoyed reading all about my pal the robin.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx