I met the author of this book a couple of weeks ago when we were both at the Hay Festival recording programmes of Shared Planet – Anneliese’s episode first broadcast on Tuesday (and repeats Monday at 9pm) whereas ‘my’ episode goes out on Tuesday at 11am.
I gave Annliese a lift back to our hotel and we ate ham sandwiches and chatted as she drank a bottle of water (gosh she can put that water away) and I drank a bottle of wine. By the time I saw her the next morning I’d ordered her book, buzzing, online even though it is aimed at children (or ‘young’ people).
Anneliese is a poet, writer and performer and her bubbly personality comes across in her book. It consists of 64 double-page spreads of invertebrate species – in each of which there is a poem and a bunch of facts and some very good photographs (all by the author too).
The species are a well chosen and include a few butterflies and moths, lots of beetles (including several ladybirds), some snails and slugs, earwigs (they are interesting), some bumblebees and many flies.
The poems are very catchy and often contain a lot of information – learning the poems is an easy way to learn the information.
And these accounts are fact-filled, and I haven’t spotted any mistakes. This seems like one of those rare successful mixtures of science and art.
I really like the book. I learned a lot. For example, the three facts about the Common Green Lacewing were all news to me. I wonder how many you know? Also I didn’t know much about leafhoppers and I certainly didn’t know that there are more species of them in the world than birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians put together – but now I do, and I probably won’t forget that.
I know my knowledge of mini-beasts isn’t very impressive but I did go ‘Oh really!’ on a lot of the pages in this book. I think many children will do the same – maybe because I am young at heart. Age a millipede by how many legs it has – ‘oh really!’.
I would never have come across this book if chance, in the form of the BBC, hadn’t thrown me together with its author. I’m glad I encountered both. When I dropped Anneliese off at a friend’s house she pointed out a Tree Bumblebee to me and the book reveals that she discovered the northernmost Berberis Sawflies in the UK in her own York garden. So she knows her stuff, but this book blends knowledge with the knack of getting it across in an effective way – simply by making facts interestingly memorable.
Anneliese tells me she has ordered a copy of Fighting for Birds but I don’t know how she is getting on with it. I did tell her she had better read it quite quickly to be ready to read A Message from Martha which is published in the UK in just over a month’s time – order here or here now to get a discount.