WHAT might a hungry blackbird chick say when its mum (or dad, for that matter) was slow in delivering the next juicy worm?

Pretty much what award-winning York poet and lyricist Anneliese Emmans Dean has it saying in her glorious new book Flying High!

Pester Power, her poem about a young blackbird is called. And it goes like this:

“Feed me! Feed me!

“More, more, MORE!

“Bring me food,

“That’s what you’re for!

“Feed me! Feed me!

“Faster, FASTER!

“Grubs and seeds

“Are what I’m after!”

Flying High! does for birds what Anneliese’s earlier book Buzzing! did for garden bugs and bees: it brings them to life in a way that will delight children and young-at-heart adults alike.

The book looks at the life cycle and behaviour of different birds throughout the changing year. Each bird has a two-page spread devoted to it. On the left-hand page is a poem, inspired by the rhythm of the bird’s song, its lifestyle and its behaviour. On the right-hand page, meanwhile, are bullet points explaining the biology hinted at in the poems.

York Press:

The Goldfinch pages from Flying High. Photos by Jayne Booton

There are also wonderful photographs – taken both by Anneliese herself and a string of other bird enthusiasts. But what makes the book so special is the sheer joy, fun and enthusiasm Anneliese brings to her versions of common British birds.

Here is her Magpie, in a poem entitled Daylight Robbery:

“I spy a magpie

“My oh my!

“With a swagger in his gait

“And a glint in his eye

“A head full of tricks

“A nest full of bling:

“Three coins, a bottle top

“And my gold ring.”

York Press:

A glint in his eye: the Magpie. Photo: Ian Kirk. From Fying High

Or how about her suitably belligerent starling:

“Bothered? Who’s bothered?

“Not me. No fear!

“I get what I want

“So you’d better steer clear.

“Bothered? Who’s bothered?

“Not me! Alright?

“So what if I stab

“And I jab and I fight?

“I know what I want

“And that’s what I’ll get

“Aint nothing and nobody

“Stopped me yet.”

There’s a great photo of squabbling starlings to accompany the poem.

York Press:

Squabbling starlings. Photo: Bill Smith. From Flying High

And in the notes on the opposite page, Anneliese writes: “Starlings strut around jabbing with their long sharp beaks. I think they look and behave like a gang of thugs. And yet at around dusk on autumn... evenings, they take to the sky and seem to totally change personality. They join with other flocks of Starlings to form a huge swarm of birds that dance and swirl around the sky... This is called a Murmuration of Starlings.”

The great thing about the book is that, for all its fun and lightness of touch, it is entirely accurate about the birds and their lives.

Anneliese, who lives in Heslington, admits that she’s been a bird lover ever since she was ‘tiny’. As a girl she had shelves of bird books. But they weren’t always very accessible for children, she says. “I can remember skimming over the top of the words and the text and concentrating on the pictures.”

York Press:

Anneliese Emmans Dean. Photo: AR Marketing

Flying High! is the perfect answer: a bird book that is fun as well as hugely informative.

None other than Sir John Lawton, the RSPB vice president, has singled it out for praise. In fact, he’s written a short introduction. A ‘marvellous little book’, he calls it, adding: “I’m a scientist, and Anneliese’s descriptions of bird biology (their life-cycles, behaviour, ecology and so on) are spot on. But what makes the book different are the poems. I loved them. They capture the essence of each bird quite brilliantly...(and) they made me chuckle, even laugh out loud with pleasure.”

If you’re at all fond of birds, they’ll make you do the same...

York Press:

  • Flying High! by Anneliese Emmans Dean is published by Brambleby Books Ltd, priced £9.99.
  • Anneliese will perform some of the poems from Flying High at a free special event at 10am on Saturday June 10 at the Sir Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York. The event is part of the York Festival of Ideas. Find out more or book your free tickets at http://yorkfestivalofideas.com/2017/community/flying-high/