My first thought when seeing the titles of these books was, “I love books about airplanes!” Well . . . now I love books about flies . . . as in insects. These three books for very young readers will open their eyes to the joys and challenges of being a reviled critter in a butterfly world.
Karl Newsom Edwards' Fly! is just the thing for the youngest nature lover. With one word repeated on each spread, we see a young fly trying to figure just how to get around. At first, a pink worm encourages, “Wiggle!” and the big-eyed fly tries, but can’t quite figure out the moves. The page turn reveals a grasshopper (“Jump!”) and then a pill bug ("Roll!") until a butterfly and bumblebee finally give the fly good advice: “Flutter! Flutter! Flit! Flit!” Soon, our hero is flying! The humorous illustrations are sure to bring a smile, but clever readers will enjoy discovering one subtle touch: Each new critter is foreshadowed on the page before. My favorite is the spider’s legs flying off the right side page, with the ants marching after them.
SWATTER VS. FLY
Petr Horáček’s The Fly is sure to engage readers right from the endpages. Dozens of flies, ready for flight, grace the inside cover, making experienced adults instinctively reach for the fly swatter. Heavyweight paper, bright colors and one well-spoken fly all add up to a funny and surprising book. The opening spread has the fly addressing the reader with an enormous speech bubble. The page turn is a shocker: An enormous blue fly swatter flaps from the top, nearly hitting the quick-moving narrator. The next page turn is equally unnerving: Now the world is upside down, with the clever fly hanging from the ceiling and the boy, flyswatter in hand, looking up. (Except that for the human reader, everything is tosy-turvy!) The fly escapes the house, finds some cows (who have tails for swatting) and faces the real world of hungry flies and birds. Cleverly cut-out swatters make this an interactive book of a different sort. In the end, the reader has a moral decision of her own—to close the book and squash the fly or to carefully read it again. I would read it again.
A CREATURE GREAT AND GROSS
The fly-as-narrator trope goes one step further in I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. This pop-eyed fly is tired of all the attention that schools give to butterflies, when, what with flies’ metamorphosis and wings and flight, they are just insects like flies. Our fly wonders, what's the big deal? After reading this informational book, not only will young readers have new respect for poop and garbage-eating flies, they will know lots more about these less glamorous insects. Like the students shown in illustrator Jennifer Plecas’ marvelous cartoon illustrations, readers will recoil at the discussion of maggots at first, but will warm up to Fly’s arguments and tales of amazing procreation and scientific wonder. As he compares himself to butterflies, it’s impossible not to admire the fly’s halters (little spinning appendages to help with balance) and astounding wing speed (200 times/sec versus a butterfly’s paltry 5 to 12). The glossary and bibliography at the end reminds us that even though this is a light and very, very funny book, it’s chock full of information!
All three of these books will make readers of all ages think differently about flies. But adults will still feel the urge to grab the swatter.