Sunday book review – Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham


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 childhood from the age of about five to about sixteen but at the end of each chapter there is a shorter account from his forties (the early 2000s) and these later accounts of conversations with… , well you read the book, are unnerving and dark.

There’s lots of Chris’s unhappy school times, unhappy home times, and happier times out with nature. There’s  the discovery of punk. There’s the relationship with a Kestrel.

And, heavens, it is very well written.  Blend ‘A Kestrel for a Knave‘ with ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning‘ and then dim the lights to make it darker and that’s where this book takes you. If you are old enough (I am) it will take you right back to the 1960s and 1970s.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the book, as you should read it yourself.  I’ll just say again – brave and powerful.  And very well written.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham is published by Ebury Press.



Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

Behind the Binoculars: interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton is published by Pelagic – here’s a review.

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.


6 Replies to “Sunday book review – Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham”

  1. Thanks, Mark, for the book review. You’ve sold it to me.
    I remember Chris Packham when he first started on BBC children’s TV. He was impressive from the word go; my kids loved his nature programmes. He looked brave back then. All courage to his elbow now.

  2. I agree, surprising, moving,unsettling and not like anything else I’ve read. Really interested to see what reaction it gets from others.

  3. I have been looking forward to reading this book, and your review has me looking forward to it even more! I have it pre-ordered on my Kindle (half price!) so have to wait a couple of weeks yet…..

  4. I’m intrigued. Chris Packham grew up a couple of miles from me in Southampton and, from what I’ve read, explored a number of the same places as a teenager. He later went to the same school too, but as he’s ten years or so my junior we never met (although I think we may have some acquaintances in common). It certainly sounds like a different sort of biography. I’d have read it anyhow, but thanks to your review it’s now on order.

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