Summary: This book is a combination autobiography and zoological dissertation about the Island of Corfu in Greece and the Durrell family. At the beginning of the book nearly everyone is feeling ill. Larry believes that it is due to the damp and wet climate in Europe. So, he packs everyone up and they move to Greece. Each family member carries their own 'essentials'. Gerald's family spends a day looking for a house with the hotel manager, but don't find anything. The next day they all set out to look for a house and are harassed by taxi drivers all determined to get them into their vehicle. They are saved from this experience by Spiro, who speaks English. He becomes their close friend and helps them while they are in Greece.
They find a strawberry pink Villa and move in. Gerald meets many new people in his explorations through the olive groves. He meets the Rose-beetle man, a mute pddler who sells Gerald a turtle when they first meet. George is secured to be Geral'd tutor, which cuts down on the adventures. In a short while they end up moving again when Larry declares that they are going to have house guests. Since they don't have room, Spiro helps them find and move in to a daffodil colored villa.
Some of Gerald's scorpions get out of his matchbox which leads to another tutor. This tutor only lasts until the summer, when Peter, an Oxford student arrives. He is very strict at first, but when he takes a liking to Margo, things become easier for Gerald. Mrs. Durrell observes that Peter and Margo are becoming too close and they send Peter away. Margo locks herself in the attic.
Great-Aunt Hermione writes to say that she is coming to visit, which upsets Mrs. Durrell. But, since they've been bragging about how much space they have and how lovely everything is, they are at a loss as to how to answer her. Larry decides that the best thing to do is to move to a smaller villa so that they won't have to accomodate Hermione. So, they move, yet again.
This snow white villa is situatied on a small hill where hundreds of mantises live. One mantis that Gerald captures is named Cecily, and he adds it to his collection. Gerald manages to go through yet another tutor. The family secures another tutor by the name of Mr. Kralefsky. He loves birds and shares that interest in common with Gerald. He takes Gerald to meet his ailing mother who tells Gerald that flowers have a language all of their own.
Shortly after this, Mrs. Durrell announces that it is time that Gerald secure proper formal schooling in England. They are leaving Corfu. This does not make anyone happy. They return to England bearing more trunks and animal cages than when they left. Interestingly enough, the Swiss official classifies her family as a traveling circus and Larry sullenly says that this is their punishment for leaving Corfu.