Tag Archives: insects

Beetle Mania!

With the arrival of Diana Hutts-Aston’s newest title in her exquisite series— A Beetle is Shy— I thought it would be an opportune time to celebrate all my favorite beetle books.

Listen, I don’t love bugs. Especially not ones that venture into my house. But I do love a few other things that make this subject worth pursuing, namely trivia, art, science, alphabetized lists and vintage readers.  Titles in this collection cover all these areas quite well. And some of these books had me in rapt attention far beyond what I expected.  Beetle books make for excellent strewing titles since there is so much fascinating information to be found in this animal family…

beetles

 

 First, as mentioned, is the latest from the Hutts-Aston and Long duo: A Beetle is Shy.  I only own ONE of the books in this series, but as a homeschooler and as a curious human being, I hope to acquire all of them someday.  Each one is a graphic feast and beetles are no exception. Couple the facts, lovely text and gorgeous art, and this is a book you will want to pass on to your children some day…

Jerry Pallota is an alphabet wizard. He loves creating alphabetized lists too and has a wonderful line of books covering a broad range of subjects.  The Beetle Alphabet Book delivers large, colorful images and excellent nuggets of trivia for every letter of the alphabet,

 

This book is what kickstarted my beetle fascination.  It had me delighted for the better part of an hour with its beautiful illustrations (stink bugs are beautiful people!) and curious facts.  Did you know that 1 in 5 every living being is a BEETLE?!?  Isn’t that just riveting?!

 

P.D. Eastman is at his finest in this old tale about mischief being righted.  The wee firefly causes mayhem with his messages he lights up around the sky until a wise old owl corrects him… you really can’t improve on some of these old reader books.

 

I admit it. The only reason we love The Grouchy Ladybug (other than it being by Eric Carle) is that it lends itself so well to the arbitrary bully voice that I like to inject whenever possible into stories: “Hey you, wanna fight?” Yes, it teaches manners and how nice it is to share… fine. But I’m not really into stories for the moralizing. I just like to frolic along the pages with different voices.

Dung beetles.  Behold. This is one of the rare times that I break my rule on entertaining “potty humor” in picture books.  And that’s only because it’s educational to learn about how these unfortunately named beetles are able to survive and thrive off of the excrement of animals. Very well done!

 

Here is the classic book that’s listed on most bibliophile’s “Best Summer Picture Books” lists.  The evocative tale of trying to capture the magical light of fireflies and the consequences that come of it. Fireflies and ladybugs are probably the most (and the only) well loved beetles out there…

 

Gail Gibbons has just never failed me yet. Ladybugs, like all of her informational titles, offer just enough information to engage children without overwhelming them.  Perfect for leaving on the back of a toilet for a child to pick up and read! Ha!

 

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle is one of Carle’s lesser known titles but I think it’s just as much fun as his more popular ones. Follow along with the the beetle as he figures out how to the nail the landing on his click-jump.

 

What would one of my Top Ten lists be without an exception?  This isn’t strictly a picture book… more of a coffee-table book actually. But it. is. stunning. If you ever doubted that the world of beetles and bugs could be a beautiful world, this is the book for you. Pheromone is a magnum opus. Check out author Christopher Marley’s website for a taste of what he does.  This book would be an excellent inspiration to budding artists everywhere…

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The most basic of living books

 

2014 passed by my attention without me noticing this very fun, very engaging new book: Some Bugs.   There is a very happy area between “stories” and “educational content” that has to be very artfully done in the picture book world, especially when the audience is Pre-K.  It’s one of my favorite little niches to explore because I find it very challenging to do well.  Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi nails it.  It’s a very, very simple primer for the pre-school set that is just fun to sit and delight over with a child.  Not only does it keep the text in very simple rhymes, it doesn’t make the mistake that many “edu-stories” make in overloading the child with text and information. This “early living book” technique is perfectly executed here, just like it is in my favorite beginner bird book by Kevin Henkes: Birds. The goal is simply to meet bugs, giggle at the pictures and be inspired to do some hunting in your own front yard.  Education to light a fire, not fill a bucket. Mixed media illustrations by Brendan Wenzel are a positive delight, refreshingly original and quirky.

Simple pleasures like these kinds of books really remind to stop and take an important five minutes in my day to engage with my little ones in a beautiful way… it’s the little things in life.

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Butterfly Bonanza: a Top Ten List

Yesterday, we just celebrated a butterfly-themed birthday with my 5 year old.  I never do birthday themes, but after my mother-in-law gave her a lovely butterfly dress and I purchased the excellent Live Butterfly Garden… we decided to go ahead and make a butterfly cake and call it a theme.

This of course led to me thinking about all my favorite butterfly books since the tail end of June is just when our weather starts to think about heating up a bit around here and fluttery creatures can finally be seen in earnest… so here’s my vote of Top Ten Butterfly Books in no particular order:

A bright and colorful starter book. The novelty factor in turning different sized pages helps engage kids. I like the very basic ID primer to butterflies and the flowers they like in the back.

One of Kleven’s newer books, this continues to offer her typical feast for the eyes with a sweet lost and found story about a glass-wing butterfly—(a real creature!).
A lovely, nostalgic memory put into picture book form
Studying the Middle Ages? Scientists?  This is an excellent, easy biographical story for very young readers on how our understanding of the natural world has changed for the better, partially through the work of Maria Merian.
An exquisite photographic journey through the alphabet that will awe young and old alike; one of my very favorite alphabet books.
Sublime illustrations… truly.

I love the size of this book.  It is a great mix of story and information Meilo So‘s art is really the standout.

One of the four gorgeous books that this author has made in this series; these are the ideal “strewing” books.
Not a lot of older Jack Kent books are still in print, much to the dismay of his cult followers.  But this one is!  It’s a silly, simple story of a smug caterpillar changing into a butterfly much to the confused amazement of a polliwog who does some changing himself.
I would hope that this one is a given… I prefer it in board book myself.  


And these are the titles of a few more books I’ve just requested from the library to check out; butterflies are a prolific genre of bug!

Gotta Go! Gotta Go!
Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors
Wings of Light: The Migration of the Yellow Butterfly  (update: very nice book following the tale of migration)

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Butterfly Tree: Pick of the Week

Often when an author makes a children’s picture book based on a memory he or she had, the result falls flat.  It’s hard to convey sometimes the significance and specialness of an event in a way that complete strangers (and young strangers to boot) will appreciate.  In the picture book world, there are exceptions to this of course. Authors like Allen Say or Barbara Cooney for example, both excel at making lovely stories out of personal memories.

Sandra Markle’s Butterfly Tree is a book in this vein.  The text, though not rhyming, is written in stanzas and the fuzzy (oil paint?) illustrations give the book a somber tone and set a thoughtful pace.  The story is about a girl witnessing a giant migration of monarch butterflies: it looks like it’s raining black pepper from a clear blue sky.  She is confused and frightened at first as she and her mother go to investigate in the woods.  All her senses seem heightened as she goes through the trees noticing things until suddenly An explosion of golden-orange bits fills the sunlight streaming between the branches.


 I especially appreciated the endnotes in this book as it fills in the gaps on a personal level with the author and shows an informative map illustrating the migration routes of Monarchs.  The book would make an excellent fill in on a butterfly study or general winter preparation/migration/hibernation studies for animals.
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Bee-autiful Books

I want bees. I also want chickens but those are taking a backseat to my interest in beekeeping lately. This has been fueled by a few things: a Texan friend who began exploring the idea, our greater consumption of honey as the primary source of sugar used in this house, my love of all things beeswax, and this fantastic children’s book that made my beekeeping itch go rabid:

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi. This is an excellent example of a “living book”. And these types of course, should live in abundance on your shelves. Published last year, this book caught me with the illustrations done in scrap collage style. It is the story of Fred, an apiarist in Brooklyn. That’s right, Brooklyn. Fred loves his bees and shows you the ins and outs of tending them. Urban beekeeping truly can happen! I need to do some research and save some money and talk to the fine folks who offer beginner classes… but I hope to make this dream a reality soon. Maybe 2013 will be my year as it’s already springtime and I’m behind the curve. At any rate, there are lots of books out there on the bee theme. Here I mention what I think are the very best:
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco. Frolic the countryside with the pastoral imagery that Polacco captures so well.

The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci. A very fun, colorful, informative book on all things related to bees! Would make an excellent spine for a unit study.
The Honeybee and the Robber by Eric Carle. A sweet, moveable flap book that showcases Carle’s signature style… especially good for young readers.
 The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank Stockton. Truth be told, I found the story here a little bit strange… just a little left of center on how I like my fantasy books. But the artwork, by the very talented P.J. Lynch is stunning. So thoughtful and detailed and otherworldly… it’s worth the read for sure.

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.

-James Russell Lowell

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An Alphabet Book for Adults… ?

I picked up this fun little book at the library last week. It must be one of the most clever alphabet books around. Each word contains the word “ant” in it… even if some of the references are totally over the heads of children; R is for Rembrant. K is for Kant (Immanuel). As an adult I got a kick out of reading the book. I loved the illustrations all the way through. My only complaint that keeps this from ousting another book to earn a spot on my Top Ten list is the fact that they dropped the ball on Y and Z. (Usually X is the major cop-out but they came up with “Xanthophile” for that) Y is for “Your Ant Yetta” and Z is for “Antzzzzz.” Pity. Despite these little complaints, Antics!by Cathi Hepworth would be fun read for children of all ages… adults too!
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(Theoretical) Library Pick of the Week


This is theoretical because we’ve not actually checked this book out. It was on our holds queue and I was devastated when I couldn’t pick it up. Truth be told, we are currently blocked from the county library system. Apparently they don’t tolerate a $40 bill. See, when your library charges 25 cents/day/book for overdue items, this really, really adds up when you are checking out 30-40 books at a time. Now, there is no excuse really, we live within walking distance to our local library. But the trouble is when we “lose” a book (it’s under a mattress or behind the piano) and another user has holds on it, it is unable to be renewed… and accrues late fees. Couple that with an unfortunate incident involving a wiggly boy, a large glass of water and a $20 book, and your account quickly goes into the delinquent status. (As I type we are racking up fees for one errant book: Babar Visits Another Planet— because it is unable to be renewed since our account is delinquent and it is nowhere to be found) Meanwhile, the library keeps sending me notices that I have holds to be picked up which agonize me that I can’t pick up until our account is paid off–maybe next payday. But I digress.

I am certain that A Butterfly Is Patientis a fantastic book in the same vein as this author’s other two mentioned books here: An Egg Is Quietand A Seed Is Sleepy. I loved how the other two books wove readers into a spell of story and science and found the illustrations and prose delightfully engaging… these would certainly be worthwhile books to invest in full price for both the sake of its beauty and its academic merit. A Butterfly is Patient was released this May and after a 30 second perusal at a small bookstore on the Oregon Coast, I was convinced it merited mention even if I’ve not read it in its entirety yet. So look for it and its predecessors as soon as you’re in the mood for delight!

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