The book is an autobiographical account of five years in the childhood of naturalist Gerald Durrell. The book is divided into three sections, marking the three villas in which the family lived on the island. Apart from Gerald (the youngest) and Larry, the family comprised their widowed mother, the gun-mad Leslie, and diet-obsessed sister Margo together with Roger the dog.
They are fiercely protected by their taxi-driver friend Spiro (Spyros "Americano" Chalikiopoulos) and mentored by the polymath Dr Theodore Stephanides who provides Gerald with his education in natural history. Other human characters, chiefly eccentric, include Gerald's private tutors, the artistic and literary visitors Larry invites to stay, and the local peasants who befriend the family. An audio treat for those young and old.