My family and other animals

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My Family and Other Animals
by Gerald Durrell

6
PRE-INTERMEDIATE

S U M M A R Y
ne day the grey English skies are too depressing for the Durrell family and they decide to move somewhere hotter. They sell the house they have just bought and move to Corfu, an island to the west of mainland Greece. None of themspeaks Greek but that does not worry them. A local taxi driver who has spent eight years in Chicago makes friends with them and looks after them. Mrs Durrell wants a villa with a bathroom and the taxi driver finds them the only one on Corfu. They settle down. They meet all sorts of people on the island, and friends come and go from England.

O

He returned from the Cameroons in Africa with over100 animals for British zoos. But after three trips his money ran out. His brother Larry, now himself a successful writer, suggested that Gerald write about his experiences. And so his first book came out, The Overloaded Ark. It received nothing but praise in both America and Britain. Other successful books followed, including My Family and Other Animals in 1956. Durrell formed close relationshipswith the animals he brought back. He found that just when the animal had learned to trust him and to act naturally in his company, he had to give it up to a zoo. The only answer was to set up his own zoo, which he did on the British island of Jersey in 1959. The Jersey Zoo was the first in the world to breed animals in captivity to save them from extinction. Durrell dedicated his life topreserving animals in danger. Throughout his life, Durrell travelled the world, studying and collecting animals. He and his wife made the first of many television programmes in 1962 about a trip to New Zealand. But his life was not always easy. He had to fight more traditional zoos to get them to accept his ideas about saving species. He also suffered from ill-health, from diseases that he caught duringhis early expeditions to Africa. Durrell has been described as ‘one of the first people to wake the world up to what was happening to the environment. His books and programmes helped a whole new generation of environmentalists come into being.’ He died in 1995.

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS

Gerald, the youngest member of the family, turns the family villa into a zoo, bringing in a tortoisenamed Achilles, scorpions, snakes, two baby magpies and a seagull named Alecko. One funny story follows another, as the rest of the family meet dangerous animals in unexpected places around the house at any time of the day or night.

ABOUT GERALD DURRELL
Gerald Durrell was born in 1925 in India, and was the youngest of four children. From the age of two he knew that he wanted to be a naturalist(somebody who studies plants and animals). His first word was ‘zoo’. Durrell never knew his father, who died when he was a baby. The family returned to England when Gerald was three, but after a few years they found the grey skies and summer rain too depressing. So they sold the family home and moved to Corfu, in Greece. For Gerald, now aged 10, this was paradise - a green and beautiful island with avery small population of humans and a very large population of animals, insects and plants. Gerald spent hours wandering over the hills and by the sea, turning over stones to look for insects and building up his collection of ‘small uglies’ - things like scorpions and spiders. This was the beginning of a lifetime as a naturalist. After five wonderful years, Mrs Durrell felt that Gerald neededsome serious teaching. This was 1939 and war was breaking out across Europe so the Durrells returned to England. When the war was over, Durrell spent a year at one of England’s most important zoos - Whipsnade Zoo - as a student keeper. In 1947 he used the little money he had to pay for his first expedition to collect animals from the wild.

BACKGROUND AND THEMES
Gerald Durrell had a very...
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