Book Review – All About Birds and Insects by Frank Jarvis
“Insects are very interesting to watch, while going about their work or basking in the sunshine. Many people pour hot water down ants’ nests, which is a cruel thing to do, as it is much more interesting to watch and study them” – the charming words of a nine year old boy from his opening introduction to his book All About Insects.
The young Frank Jarvis wrote this wonderful and meticulous field note book in 1947 which has been lovingly reproduced in facsimile as part of two books in a single beautiful volume. The companion volume which forms the lion’s share of the book is All About Birds, which traces Franks acute observations including the camouflage of birds, birds as architects through to strange birds of near and far. Frank kept a number of these small notebooks and records reflecting his childhood encounters with nature from his surroundings in North London alongside the inspiration drawn from library books of more exotic species found around the globe.
The craftsmanship and attention to detail that flows through his work is a remarkable achievement for a boy of such a tender age; his passion and excitement for his subject exudes from every page. They do perhaps represent a record from a forgotten time of childhood bewilderment and fascination with the natural world in a format that is possibly sadly lost to this and future generations. The technologically-driven world that we all inhabit has undoubtedly affected those honed skills of the committed nature watcher – patience, the power of observation, the acquirement and retainment of knowledge all of which are evident on these printed pages and in the process that would have taken place in keeping such field notebooks.
Frank’s passion for the natural world never went away as he went on to forge a career illustrating bird books. Much of his adult work reflecting his years in Norfolk can be seen in his two volumes of field sketches A Bird Guide to the Fields of Experience and visitors to NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes might be familiar with examples of his identification work, which can still be seen on panels in the central hides.
To celebrate the publication of this book we will be hosting an exhibition of his work, Notes in the Wild, which will run from 13 February. On Tuesday 18 February there will be a workshop taking inspiration from his work where children will be encouraged to go outside and find something that they would like to research, draw and document in their own handmade books just as Frank would have done more than 70 years ago.
This little book has a big message and it stands as a profound and timely reminder of the need to acknowledge the importance of nature and wildlife for the development of children, and their understanding of the importance of conserving and protecting it for future generations.
The two volumes of A Bird Guide to the Fields of Experience are priced at £24 each along with All About Birds and Insects at £14.95. They are available to buy at all NWT visitor centres or by calling 01603 625540.