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From a broken, suicidal, autistic teenager, who dropped out of school at 15, to a passionate young adventurer, comes a remarkable 300-page self-published coffee table book, “Josh’s Big Year”, which was launched  on November 14 in Durban. Josh Crickmay’s publishing debut is a celebration of courage and triumph of the human spirit.

In 2012 15-year-old South African school pupil Josh Crickmay, unable to cope with the demands of the classroom dropped out of school. What followed was a deep and debilitating depression kindled by the belief that he would never be able to fend for himself. Severely suicidal, Josh landed in hospital and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or High Functioning Autism.
Certain that unless they did something radical, they would lose their only child, Josh’s parents Andrew and Kathy, quit their jobs and embarked on a quest to give Josh a reason to live and to function in life without a formal education. They did this by building on and kindling Josh’s interests in birding, photography and writing.

For an entire year they travelled to every corner of Southern Africa and spent seven weeks in the Amazon and Andes in what is known in birding circles as a “Big Year” which involves identifying as many bird species as possible in a single year, inspired by the movie of the same name.

The entire project represents Josh’s own work from photography to layout and design. His writing is a delight, honest, self-effacing and laugh out loud funny in places but sobering and tear-filled in others.
Ernie and Liesl Els had this to say: “This book has a transformative effect; like turning on a flashlight in a dark room. For readers the book serves as a delight for the senses – visually, thanks to the diverse and brilliant photography, and emotionally, through the way in which the book navigates Josh’s emotional journey”. This sentiment is shared by founding art director of Getaway magazine James Berrange who said “the effect this book is going to have can hardly be imagined”.

The book took nearly 3 years to write, with the first edition completed when he was 16. The book is hoped to impact and give encouragement to a world where one in 68 people are thought to be on the Autism spectrum.

Josh’s Big Year book cover

Josh’s plan is that Josh’s Big Year will be the first in a series of books as he video blogs his adventures and highlights conservation issues.
The book can be purchased online at . It is an ideal corporate or family gift for Christmas or special occasions.


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