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The Fantastic Flying Journey

Updated on August 3, 2013

An Illustrated Journey Through Nature With Gerald Durrell

The Fantastic Flying Journey is a picture book written by renowned conservationist Gerald Durrell and illustrated in full colour by Graham Percy. I love this book. It was almost certainly my favourite book as a child. The story, the illustrations, the fact that it's full of animals, the wonderful balloon and the amazing places they visited. Knowing the animals and places were real...

And when I was older, I came to know who Gerald Durrell was, and devoured his other books. Before my family discvoered Terry Pratchett we were collecting Gerald Durrell's little paperbacks of his journeys into the wilderness, his childhood on Corfu and all the species I have often never even heard of again, and his attempts to catch feed and breed them.

The Fantatasic Flying Journey is just that - Fantastic. We had a large hardback and it fell apart (which is why I don't have it any more).

It was also published the same year I was born! (And I remember reading it between six and twelve - first for the pictures, then later for the story, page by page, then the whole thing at once.

It was written by a man who knows more about animals than almost anyone else. It distills some of the knowledge of his expeditions and encounters into illustrated format. They visit pretty much every country in the world, and learn something in each place. This is the book that told me about tapirs, butterfly migrations, the amount of fresh water that spills out of the Amazon and marks the sea, polar bear cubs, incubating nests, and buffalo (or is it bison?)

Have you read The Fantastic Flying Journey? - Or have you never heard of it?

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The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell - My Favourite Picture Book

The story has its fantastical elements, and I saw a criticism regarding the 'confusing mix of fact and fiction' - to which I say piffle. Yes, giant air balloons with whole homes inside are ridiculous, and so is magic 'talking to animals' powder - but they are also extremely fun and a well-executed literary convention to allow the rest of the story.

What is the story...? Oh, Great-Uncle Lancelot lands in the garden while the children are looking at mushrooms, and sweeps Emma, and the twins Ivan and Conrad off with him to find his brother Perceval, who invented the magic powder and is lost in Africa, looking for gorillas. And off they go, to chase him around the world - Australia,the North Pole, Canada, North America, Brazil and Patagonia.

Great-Uncle Lawrence is very similar to the man I later came to know as Gerald Durrell, and amusingly, he gave the animals very specific characters out of his own personal opinions.
The official reviews of The Fantastic Flying Journey criticise it for being unrealistic, longwinded and humourless. I can only assume the reviewers were American (sorry, sorry! Couldn't resist!) and if you read the personal testimonials, from children and adult you will hear a far different story. I found plenty of humour in it, and I found it very very interesting, and I think it holds more than enough for a child to grow up with.

What did you think about the Fantastic Flying Journey? - Write a review, add a comment, or debate someone who disagrees with you.

Below are reviews from Amazon...

  • My family first came accross this book about 15 years ago, and I have to say it is definitely one of my favorite childhood books. As children we found it inspiring and exciting and all of what a children's book should be...we wanted to read it, to look at the gorgeous illustrations, to be a part of that world. As an adult, I still find it inspiring and exciting but it also has an added beauty of being a classic and unaffected story, qualities which are hard to come by within children's literature. If you have children, this book is a great buy. If you don't have children, this book is a great buy.
  • This is a fantastic book all round for all ages but especially the 6-12 group. Great uncle Launcelot and the 3 kids in the story lead us all around the world hunting a lost relative via an environmentally-friendly, mind-bogglingly clever hot-air balloon. There are lots of adventures in all areas of the world always involving the local animals which, of course Durrell is an expert on. The story has warmth, colour, pace and will keep your kid interested and looking forward to each new chapter.
    this is a brilliant book and excellent value for money
  • love Gerald Durrell's work and was thrilled to find House of Stratus were reprinting so many titles. THE FANTASTIC FLYING JOURNEY is not only lovely to look at, it is perfect bedtime reading and each evening there is a new and exciting adventure to look forward to. Durrell, in an amusing and entertaining way, teaches us a great deal about the animal kingdom and certainly my family now look on their fellow creatures of whatever size and shape with appreciation and respect.
  • One of my earliest memories of reading is with this marvelous book! I am now twenty-six and remember my father reading this to me when it was first printed. I believe I recieved it as a birthday or christmas gift. I have not seen my copy for years, but with the help of Amazon been able to find the name and author of my beloved first favorite book. I am ordering a copy now! If you want to inspire your childs young mind, this is a great place to start! Even though I couldn't remember the name, the story has stuck with me all these years. I plan on reading it to my children to carry on the tradition!
  • I enjoyed this book because it was fun, interesting, educational and good. I also enjoyed it because I'd learnt a lot more than if I hadn't read it.
    I especially liked the part where Lancelot said that he never opened letters in case they were something bad. This is silly because they might be good very often.It was very interesting that penguins would live in Patagonia on sand-dunes. I thought they would've lived on other surfaces such as rock or a little bit of sand and maybe some ice.

    This book was educational because it told me some stuff I didn't know before. It also gave me a good idea of animals in the world.
    I'd like to go around the world in a balloon that was pretty much a big bamboo house. It was interesting how it was powered- by electric eels and was crewed by spiders who spun webs for clothes and for closing up cracks in the balloon.I think quite a few people that I know would like this book.
    By Matthew, aged 8,

  • My 7yo son wouldn't let me put this down! This story is about a very exciting journey around the world in a hot air balloon house. It conveys factual geographical and natural history information in such a gentle and extraordinary way. As the kids travel from continent to continent, they encounter many indigenous wildlife and discover interesting facts about them. Great read!
  • We have used this book as a basis for our study of around the world and learning about the continents. We would love to find 3 more copies for all teachers. We have not been able to locate these. Can you give an address of where to find them in England? A former student got one for us from a relative who lived in England in less than 4 days. Here in the states we cannot locate any.
  • My mom and I read this book together. I really liked that the animals could talk to the humans. I was a good story. I liked it when they went around the world, reading about all the different places and the animals that lived there. - Marie, age 7 and mom.

What did you think? Too 'precious' and uninspiring or just right?

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Gerald Durrell's official site - The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Gerald Durrell, now dead, set up the worl's first conservation Zoo on Jersey and still has an ongoing trust. Visit the site below to leanr more and to support them,

Gerald Durrell on Video - BBC Documentary Clip

Here you get to see Gerald Durrell himself, as well as New Zealand Keas and African hunters and children bringing him frogs to buy - and hear him talking about them in his usual dry and self-deprecating way!

See the Animals Gerald Durrell Saved - The Zoo in 2007

Videoed at the world famous headquarters of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust(Jersey C.I), founded by the naturalist and author Gerald Durrell.

More books by Gerald Durrell - Vote for your favourites, or add any I missed.

Gerald Durrell wrote books for one reason, and one reason only - to raise money for his zoo and his trips out after more animals. If your idea of an expedition after animals summons up Steve Irwin - then you really need to read these books. From his childhood in Corfu, to African tribesmen to the hairy frog and the Aya-Aye, to the zoo itself... these books cover his life, his marriages, himself and more unusual and endangered species than I can remember.

Leave a Comment - Have you heard of Gerald Durrell?

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    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      I'm thrilled to find that there are more Gerald Durrell books for me to read - I thouhgt I'd read them all. An inspiring man!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I've never read any of his books but they sound wonderful!

    • Chocolatealchemy profile image

      Chocolatealchemy 6 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Great Lens, thanks. I have just done a Lens on The Talking Parcel - awesome book, as are all Gerald Durrell's creations! I was looking for info on his other children's books, so glad you created this and am off to get myself a copy!

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 7 years ago from Montana

      Excellent lens! Can't wait to get his books and share with my grandson (in a few years). Blessings!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 7 years ago

      Very interesting & fun book review