Little Critters Are Beautiful! (Well, Most of Them.)

Little critters are fascinating…and beautiful, too.  Yes, they are!  When I first saw the mosaics of the wonderful artist Christopher Marley, I Christopher Marleythought that he had painted his bugs before arranging them.  Real bugs certainly don’t come in all those shapes and sizes and colors!  Maybe pretty insects like butterflies do, but not plain old bugs.  But they do.  Check out his website to learn more.

When I had a daycare in my house, everyone–boys. girls, and me, too!–would gather to see the bugs that they found in my backyard. With a couple exceptions.

I have to confess that there are two critters that give me the willies.  The first is earthworms, especially when they lay writhing on my driveway after a rainstorm. All the kids loved them, and for some reason (maybe because worms were the easiest to catch), they brought me to see each and every worm they found. I’m not sure why I get creeped out by worms–I can deal with snakes, for goodness sake! Maybe it was that one movie I saw when I was a teen. Or maybe it was that earthworm that I had to dissect in Biology.

While I suffer from arachnophobia (sounds a lot better than admitting that I run shrieking at the sight of a spider), my older son, Alex, thought they were great. We often visited the critters in the ZooLab at the Minnesota Zoo, where volunteers would hold small animals so zoo visitors could touch them.  One day when he was three, a  volunteer with a tarantula saw Alex’s curiosity and asked if he wanted to touch the spider. Of course he did! In a desperate attempt not to pass along my own fears, I calmly asked him what it felt like. And the savvy volunteer, sensing that I was petrified of the eight-legged monster creature, said to me, “Well, Mom, why don’t you see for yourself?”

The picture books below celebrate these marvelous little creatures and their wonderful abilities, from making sweet honey to providing light to getting rid of garbage…and more!

Astrid the Fly Fly I, Fly

This must be the year of the fly, because flies tell their stories in several picture books. Astrid the Fly describes her family, her activities, and the dangers she faces, including the BIG BANG (flyswatter), the HORRIBLE INHALING MACHINE (vacuum cleaner), and whatever it was that made Uncle Abe vanish. Astrid could be any number of preschoolers that I’ve met. The narrator in The Fly looks more realistic and tells the reader more facts than Astrid, and he just can’t understand why no one likes him. A fly swatter  misses him a couple times, until he shouts to the reader, “HEY, don’t close the book… HELP… HELP…” Finally, after flying into a science classroom that is studying butterflies, the fly in I, Fly tries to talk the kids into learning about flies instead; after all, flies are insects and can do everything that butterflies can…just better! While the first two books can be used as introductions to an insect unit, I, Fly has lots of information told in a humorous story.

Astrid the Fly by Maria Jonsson. 9780823432004. 2015. Gr PK-1.
The Fly by Petr Horacek. 9780763674809. 2015. Gr PK-2.
I, Fly : The Buzz about Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos (ill. by Jennifer Plecas). 9780805094695. 2015. Gr 1-4.

Bee Dance Good Night, Firefly

These two books focus on single insects as well.  Bee Dance focuses on, well, bees and their dances. Up-close and colorful collage-and-pencil artwork gives young students a clear view of a bee that finds yummy flowers before returning to its hive to do a “waggle dance” that tells the other bees where to find them, too. After the electricity goes out in Good Night, Firefly, Nina captures a firefly in a jar to scare away the dark. She plays and talks to her new friend. But when its light grows dimmer and dimmer, Nina sets him free.

Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski. 9780805099195. June 2015. Gr PK-1.
Good Night, Firefly by Gabriel Alborozo. 9781627792226. June 2015. Gr PK-2.

Look Out for Bugs Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt Small Wonders

Next are three books that deal with groups of insects and other critters. Look Out for Bugs describes how insects have adapted to survive in various environments. A two-page spread shows a diorama and a brief description of a habitat; the following spread shows a close-up of the insects (and some arachnids) from that habitat, providing the name of each and a few sentences about its lifestyle. The garden is the only habitat in Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, in which the author chronicles the lives of the insects and others critters that can be found there during the different seasons. Small Wonders : Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects is a biography of a man who, as a boy, loved to study the critters that lived outside his home. When he grew up, instead of studying exotic insects in faraway places, he kept on studying those that were familiar and close. He became one of a very few scientists to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Look Out for Bugs by Jen Prokopowicz. 9781940052144. 2015. Gr 1-4.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner (ill. by Christopher Silas Neal). 9781452119366. 2015. Gr K-3.
Small Wonders : Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects by Matt Smith (ill. by Giuliano Ferri). 9781477826324. May 2015. Gr 1-3.

We Dig Worms I'm Trying to Love Spiders

Finally, despite having the willies, I also read two books about those critters I appreciate the least. We Dig Worms! is an informative and a bit silly book (painted on recycled paper bags) about worms for very young scientists. Actually, I learned a little more than I am comfortable with, such as, “Over one million worms can live in a small park” and that the biggest worm in the world grows to 10 feet long—thank goodness it’s from Australia! And last of all, I’m Trying to Love Spiders. Not me, but the narrator is. She tries to tell herself that spiders are interesting, but whenever she sees one… ”AHHHHHHHHH!! IT’S MOVING!! SQUISH IT!! SQUISH IT!! SQUISH IT!!” And all that’s left is a gross black spot. It’s a very funny book about spiders and overcoming fears, though I doubt I will be successful with that!

Though I did touch that tarantula at the zoo.

We Dig Worms! (Toon) by Kevin McCloskey. 9781935179801. 2015. Gr K-2.
I’m Trying to Love SpidersMackin Picks by Bethany Barton. 9780670016938. July 2015. Gr K-3.

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