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A Handful of Happiness: Ninna, the tiny hedgehog with a big heart

Massimo Vacchetta

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Memoirs, Wildlife: mammals

The feel-good, inspiring story of one man, a baby hedgehog and how they helped each other

The heart-warming story of how a tiny hedgehog helped one man find hope.

'Could you look after it for a couple of days? . . .' So begins the extraordinary friendship between veterinarian Massimo, who is at a low spot in his life, and a tiny, orphaned hedgehog. Only a few days old, covered with soft, white quills and mewling quietly, this little creature will turn around his life forever. Through the sheer force of Ninna's personality - curious, playful, affectionate - and the sudden, unexpected paternal protectiveness he feels nursing her back to health, Massimo reconnects with the world - and finally begins to feel like home.

But as Ninna wakes from her first hibernation, she grows up, like any teenager, longing for freedom. A creature of the wild, she craves the free range of the woods beyond Massimo's house. Massimo must accept that Ninna is ready to move on . . . but one little hedgehog saved and released into her natural habitat is a new beginning for Massimo: setting up a sanctuary for the injured, orphaned, fragile - but with a will to live so strong it is truly contagious.

A Handful of Happiness is their funny and life-affirming story - a celebration of our favourite prickly wildlife creature, which will make you laugh and cry. Perfect for animal lovers and fans of A Streetcat Named Bob, Arthur, Finding Gobi and Monty Don's Nigel.

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Massimo Vacchetta

Massimo Vacchetta is the chairman of The Hedgehog Home, an association whose mission is the protection of hedgehogs and their environment. He is also the founder of a shelter and rehabilitation centre for hedgehogs. He lives in northern Italy, where he is a veterinarian specializing in the care of cattle.

Antonella Tomaselli is a journalist, author, environmentalist and lover of animals.

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