Perfect for elementary science classrooms everywhere, as well as budding entomologists, this collection of 29 original short poems about bugs (both spiders and insects) is informative and entertaining.
In rhyming poems, save for one about a walking stick that reads like one friend egging on another (“touch it”), poet Carol Murray, a former English and speech teacher, dives into the world of crickets, jumping spiders, flies, bumblebees, dung beetles and much more. Her rhythms are infectious, making this one a good read-aloud, and she makes topics such as camouflage, life cycles, larvae and life spans interesting and engaging.
Some of the poems directly address the bug in question: After describing the way in which a praying mantis folds it front legs when resting, which makes it look as if it’s praying, Murray asks, “So, tell us, Mr. Mantis, / what should we believe?” An unseen narrator also asks of a bumblebee: “Rumble, rumble, / Bumblebee. / Don’t you know / you’re bugging me?”
Many of the poems allow readers to hear directly from the bug of the poem. A spotted water beetle lays out its skills, asking for the reader’s vote, as if in a talent contest. A cockroach mourns the hatred humans have for it, and a dung beetle, despite noting its popularity in Egypt once upon a time, laments the lack of respect received today.
Melissa Sweet adds a lot of humor and imagination to these offerings with her watercolor and mixed-media illustrations. In a poem about how cicadas molt on tree trunks, Sweet shows one having hung its exoskeleton on a hanger right there on the tree. These are subtle touches in a book that otherwise doesn’t anthropomorphize these tiny creatures. It’s a book bursting with color, as if all these bugs have ventured forth on a spring day.
Each illustration features a small text note with further information about the creature, and Murray closes with three pages of “Cricket Notes,” more informational facts about each bug. Fun and accessible, this one is a must-have for elementary classrooms and libraries.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.