Insects: Bugged Out! | Focus On

SLJ1105_FO_locus(Original Import)

Insects really need no introduction. They have lived on earth much longer than humans and vastly outnumber us and all other animal species combined. We encounter them daily in our houses and yards. Yet, when children want to investigate insects, books can help them start their explorations. Paleo Bugs carries readers back to the time of prehistoric arthropods while Biggest Bugs Life-Size introduces remarkable insects living around the world today. Dramatic photos by Nic Bishop and Darlyne Murawski bring readers startlingly close to butterflies, including some in remote places. Illustrations reveal what happens to insects in winter in Bugs and Bugsicles and expose how bees tend their hives in In the Trees, Honey Bees.

SLJ1105_FO_Butterfly(Original Import)With so many insects close by, students can hone observation and investigation skills. A second group of books features the work of professional entomologists and encourages youngsters to study insects themselves. From the pioneering observations of Maria Merian (Summer Birds) to contemporary forensic entomologists, the study of insects has a long and varied history. Insects stir the imagination of poets, artists, and novelists as well as scientists. Whether unraveling an art-theft mystery with a beetle in Masterpiece or bouncing to Bugtown Boogie, readers will find their imaginations stretched. They can join voices in Joyful Noise or create their own verses using forms suggested in Hey There, Stink Bug!

One final note. As many books and websites point out, “bug” and “insect” are not synonymous. True bugs are one order of the insect class, but in everyday speech, most people refer to any small many-legged creature as a “bug.” Animals such as spiders and myriapods appear in several of these insect-related resources, but their presence supplements rather than confuses the subject.

SLJ1105_FO_IntroInsects(Original Import)

Introducing Insects

BECCALONI, George. Biggest Bugs Life-Size. Firefly. 2010. Tr. $19.95. 978-1-55407-699-4. Gr 4-8—Beccaloni identifies the largest representative of major orders of insects, arachnids, and myriapods. Each spread offers basic information plus a dramatic life-size photo and a small world map indicating the animal’s range. Largest can mean heaviest, longest, or those with the greatest wingspan. All will amaze browsers and encourage budding entomologists to search for additional information.

BISHOP, Nic. Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths. photos by author. Scholastic. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-87757-2. Gr 2-5—Stunning close-up photos draw readers into the world of Lepidoptera. Sequences such as a caterpillar changing into a pupa or a four-page foldout of a butterfly in flight will dazzle viewers. Text pages feature a summarizing sentence in contrasting type that can be shared for read-alouds.

BRADLEY, Timothy J. Paleo Bugs: Survival of the Creepiest. illus. by author. Chronicle. 2008. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-6022-2. Gr 4-8—Bradley explores the world of Paleozoic arthropods, including ancestors of cockroaches, dragonflies, and other insects. Sidebars next to paintings of what the arthropods might have looked like show their size relative to a human child and point out the relationship between the prehistoric animal and its contemporary descendants.

CUSICK, Dawn. Bug Butts. illus. by Haude Levesque. EarlyLight Bks. 2009. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-9797455-0-8. Gr 2-5—If the book’s title doesn’t attract readers, Cusick’s explanations of ways various insects use poop (frass) will. Communication, camouflage, shelter, and fertilizer are among her examples. Insect butts also help in breathing, defense, and cocoon construction, as portrayed in large, clear illustrations. A unique way to introduce insect anatomy and activities.

HANSEN, Amy S. Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter. illus. by Robert Clement Kray. Boyds Mills. 2010. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-269-9; pap. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-763-2. Gr 3-5—Hansen explains winter survival strategies of six insects. Among those featured, the most amazing is the Arctic wooly bear caterpillar that freezes solid then thaws in spring. Suggested experiments can lead to discoveries about what happens when water freezes.

MICUCCI, Charles. The Life and Times of the Ant. illus. by author. Houghton Harcourt. 2003. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-618-00559-8. Gr 2-5—Micucci stresses the long history and continuing importance of a social insect that thrives in habitats from deserts to jungles. From body structure to communication and colony organization, this overview, enhanced by numerous watercolor illustrations, should encourage readers to seek out and observe the industrious insect that can be found almost anywhere.

MORTENSEN, Lori. In the Trees, Honey Bees! illus. by Cris Arbo. Dawn. 2009. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-114-3; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-115-0. K-Gr 3—Short rhymes plus close-up paintings of life in a colony of wild honey bees will fascinate the read-aloud crowd. Older students can learn more about the role of different bees in the colony’s survival from the sentences at the bottom of each spread.

MURAWSKI, Darlyne A. Face to Face with Butterflies. photos by author. (Face to Face with Animals Series). National Geographic. 2010. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0618-1; PLB $25.90. ISBN 978-1-4263-0619-8. Gr 2-5—Murawski’s own field research informs her introduction to butterflies, well-illustrated with arresting photographs. The chapter on migration, including maps of monarch routes, considers the mystery of butterfly navigation. The author encourages readers to start butterfly gardens at home and school and record their observations of insect visitors.

NARGI, Lela. The Honeybee Man. illus. by Krysten Brooker. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84980-0; PLB $20.99 ISBN 978-0-375-95695-9. K-Gr 3—Fred tends beehives on the roof of his Brooklyn, NY, home and shares honey with his neighbors in late summer. Illustrations depict the bees’ nectar collection, communication, and cooperation. Several pages of detailed information and diagrams about bees and beekeeping are appended.

NIRGIOTIS, Nicholas. Killer Ants. illus. by Emma Stevenson. Holiday House. 2009. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2034-6. Gr 3-6—Nirgiotis introduces four flesh-eating species whose work as exterminators helps keep forests healthy. He concentrates on the complex migratory and bivouac cycles of an army ant colony seeking prey. Detailed paintings of the featured insects as well as fire ants, driver ants, and bulldog ants reveal developmental stages and attack modes.

ROCKWELL, Anne. Bugs Are Insects. illus. by Steve Jenkins. (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Series). HarperCollins. 2001. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-0-06-028568-5; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-028569-2. K-Gr 3—Rockwell explains what distinguishes an insect from other animals that look similar such as scorpions and spiders. She also notes that “bug” and “insect” are not synonymous. Jenkins’s collage illustrations reinforce the text’s distinctions and will encourage readers to undertake some of the activities and observations suggested at the end.

SIY, Alexandra. Mosquito Bite. photos by author & Dennis Kunkel. Charlesbridge. 2005. RTE $15.95. ISBN 978-1-57091-591-8. Gr 2-5—Readers view summer from a mosquito’s perspective. Children playing outdoors represent a vital food source the female needs to nourish her eggs. Numerous images taken with a scanning electron microscope are colored to highlight details and trace the insect from egg to adult.

STRADLING, Jan. Bugs & Spiders. (The Wonders Inside Series). Silver Dolphin. 2009. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-57145-907-7. Gr 1-4—Colorful, magnified illustrations fill this large-format volume. Browsers will particularly enjoy five acetate overlays that conceal and reveal added details of related illustrations. Although beetles are separated from other insects by pages devoted to spiders, the text makes the classification clear. Some minor factual errors don’t outweigh the volume’s value in introducing its subject.

ZABLUDOFF, Marc. The Insect Class. Marshall Cavendish/Benchmark. 2006. PLB $29.92. ISBN 978-0-7614-1819-1. Gr 6-9—Zabludoff explains essential characteristics of members of the insect class while noting differences among some of the major orders. He addresses their evolutionary history, physical features, and survival strategies. Photos and diagrams offer visual aids. The spread of the “Insect Family Tree” reinforces the class’s breadth.

SLJ1105_FO_Investigating(Original Import)

Investigating Insects

BAKER, Nick. Bug Zoo. DK. 2010. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-0-7566-6166-3. Gr 2-5—Baker provides detailed instructions about how to capture and care for a variety of small creatures, mainly insects. Plenty of photos accompany directions for every step of the process, from constructing equipment to collecting and housing the animals to helping them thrive in their new environment.

BLOBAUM, Cindy. Insectigations!: 40 Hands-on Activities to Explore the Insect World. illus. by Gail Rattray. Chicago Review. 2005. pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55652-568-1. Gr 3-6—Wide-ranging experiments and craft projects help readers explore many aspects of insect anatomy and behavior. Blobaum suggests keeping an observation journal and includes writing prompts throughout. Simple drawings and diagrams clarify steps for suggested activities. Sidebars include information about the work of entomologists and suggest additional resources.

BURNS, Loree Griffin. The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe. photos by Ellen Harasimowicz. (Scientists in the Field Series). Houghton Harcourt. 2010. Tr $18. ISBN 978-0-547-15231-8. Gr 5-9—A team of scientists investigates possible causes of the mysterious phenomenon, Colony Collapse Disorder, that has devastated honey bee hives in recent years. Readers learn about the importance of insect pollinators and the work of beekeepers, factors that might contribute to the decline of honey bees, and the need to protect them.

DENEGA, Danielle. Gut-Eating Bugs: Maggots Reveal the Time of Death! (24/7: Science Behind the Scenes Series). Watts. 2007. PLB $25. ISBN 978-0-531-11824-5; pap. $7.95. ISBN 978-0-531-17525-5. Gr 5-8—Denega introduces tools and methods used by forensic entomologists. She presents three real-life cases to explain clues provided by insects in determining time and manner of death. The breezy writing style and busy layout create a tabloid feel consistent with the topic.

ENGLE, Margarita. Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian. illus. by Julie Paschkis. Holt. 2010. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-8937-0. Gr 1-3—In the 17th century, Maria Merian defied conventional wisdom that insects sprang from mud. Through careful observation, she witnessed the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies and moths. Paschkis’s vibrant folk-art illustrations celebrate nature and those who investigate its wonders.

JACKSON, Donna M. The Bug Scientists. (Scientists in the Field Series). Houghton Harcourt. 2002. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-618-10868-8. Gr 4-8—From directing insects and spiders in Hollywood movies to studying the social structure of ants in Costa Rica, entomologists engage in varied careers. Jackson includes amateurs participating in Monarch Watch as well as professionals from universities and crime labs, all eager to share their knowledge of insects with readers.

KNUDSEN, Michelle. Bugged! illus. by Blanche Sims. (Science Solves It! Series). Kane. 2008. pap. $5.95. ISBN 978-1-57565-259-7. Gr 1-3—Riley can’t understand why mosquitoes bite him but ignore others. Research online and in books plus a visit to an entomologist provide suggestions about what might attract mosquitoes. When Riley tests the ideas, nothing works until an accidental discovery. The story models scientific investigation applied to a real-life “mystery.”

VOAKE, Steve. Insect Detective. illus. by Charlotte Voake. Candlewick. 2010. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4447-5. K-Gr 2—Voake encourages readers to watch and listen for insects that live nearby as they hide under rocks or in cracks in walls, land on leaves and flowers, or fly overhead. Pastel watercolor illustrations accompany the simple text that conveys excitement about exploring the world of common backyard creatures.

SLJ1105_FO_Inventing(Original Import)

Inventing Insects

On the Web

Classify Insects: Zoom in on True Bugs. Scholastic. New York. (Accessed 3/23/11) Gr 3-7–An entomologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces visitors to the large insect order of “true bugs.” Information about tools entomologists use in lab and fieldwork, directions for observing and reporting findings, plus an interactive classification exercise encourage students to engage in “backyard science.”

Create Your Own Super Bug! Yorkshire Museum & Gardens. York, UK. (Accessed 3/23/11) Gr 2-5–Text pages provide basic information about insects, arachnids, and other “minibeasts.” However, the site’s major attraction is the Top Secret Laboratory where visitors can assemble their own Super Bug from an assortment of bodies, heads, legs, and “super powers” and receive ratings for its strength, speed, attack, defense, and agility.

Monarch Butterfly. Journey North, Annenberg Learner, Washington, D.C. (Accessed 3/23/11) K-Gr 8–The world of monarch butterflies comes alive through video clips, slide shows, maps, puzzles, and other features. Weekly updates of migration provide ongoing connections to the insects’ incredible journey. Teacher resources include lesson plans and teaching guides for other animals in addition to monarchs.

Pestword for Kids. National Pest Management Association. Fairfax, VA. (Accessed 3/23/11) Gr 2-6–In addition to a guide identifying household pests, the site includes three interactive games with related lesson plans. Instructions for report writing and science-fair projects expand curriculum connections. References to “pest control professionals” sometimes appear but don’t detract from learning or fun.

BROACH, Elise. Masterpiece. illus. by Kelly Murphy. Holt. 2008. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8270-8. Gr 4-7—James, 11, can’t impress his ambitious mother until he produces a miniature drawing resembling Dürer’s work. Unfortunately, the artist is Marvin, a beetle in James’s apartment. Boy and insect foil an art forger’s plans while keeping Marvin’s identity secret. This terrific blend of art history, mystery, and fantasy explores friendship and family dynamics too.

BULION, Leslie. Hey There, Stink Bug! illus. by Leslie Evans. Charlesbridge. 2006. RTE $12.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-304-6. Gr 4-7—Bulion juxtaposes short poems with informative paragraphs about featured insects plus a spider or two. Wordplay and humor are reinforced in the watercolor and linoleum block illustrations. Endnotes explain poetic forms used in each of the verses, melding language arts to science.

FLEISCHMAN, Paul. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. illus. by Eric Beddows. HarperCollins. 1988. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-021852-2; pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-06-446093-4. Gr 3-7—Fleischman offers imaginative views of 14 insects in poems designed for two people to read aloud. From book lice describing how they spend time with their favorite authors to the contrasting lives of worker and queen bee, the poems resonate with insights and energy. Perfect for readers theater.

HANSON, Warren. Bugtown Boogie. illus. by Steven Johnson & Lou Fancher. HarperCollins/Laura Geringer Bks. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-059937-9; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-059938-6. K-Gr 2—As insects sing and dance the night away, listeners can chime in on sounds like “Froppit!” and “Fiddle-deep” that punctuate the pulsing verse. The illustrators cram the dance floor with insects of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Humorous touches such as Katydids and their Katykids may whiz past the youngest listeners, but everyone will bounce to the read-aloud rhythm.

KLINE, Suzy. Horrible Harry Bugs the Three Bears. illus. by Frank Remkiewicz. Viking. 2008. Tr $13.99. ISBN 978-0-670-06293-5. Gr 2-4—When Harry’s third-grade class has to act out fairy tales, he convinces his group to include his favorite insect, earwigs, in their rendition of “Goldilocks.” Earwig facts are incorporated seamlessly as Harry helps his classmates overcome their aversion and produce a funny play. A drama script is included

LOIZEAUX, William. Clarence Cochran, a Human Boy. illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. Farrar/Melanie Kroupa Bks. 2009. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-374-31323-4. Gr 4-6—Clarence and his family are dismayed by his overnight transformation from cockroach to tiny human. Despite the drawbacks of his new form, he alone can convince Mimi, an environmentally concerned girl, to stop her mother’s plans to use exterminators. Small black-and-white drawings provide views of cockroach society and the insects’ perspective of human activities.

REYNOLDS, Aaron. Joey Fly, Private Eye, in Creepy Crawly Crime. illus. by Neil Numberman. Holt. 2009. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8242-5; pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8786-4. Gr 4-6—Joey Fly and his bumbling scorpion assistant track down a pencil box stolen from Delilah, a gorgeous butterfly. Joey narrates the tale in classic hard-boiled style laced with plenty of insect-related puns. Dark-hued cartoon panels evoke film noir scenes. Solving the mystery isn’t as important as enjoying the investigation’s twists and turns.

SPECK, Katie. Maybelle Goes to Tea. illus. by Paul Rátz de Tagyos. Holt. 2008. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8093-3. Gr 2-4—Plenty of slapstick humor accompanies the attempts of a cockroach to stop newcomer fly Maurice from eating the treats for Mrs. Peabody’s very proper spring tea. Maybelle’s presence in a cucumber sandwich horrifies guests and leads to attacks by flyswatter, bug bomb, and Ramona the cat. Numerous drawings and nonstop action encourage readers graduating to chapter books.

WHEELER, Lisa. Old Cricket. illus. by Ponder Goembel. S & S/Atheneum/Richard Jackson Bks. 2003. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-0-689-84510-9. K-Gr 2—Old Cricket tries to avoid winter preparations by complaining of various ailments on his way to see Doc Hopper. Industrious Aunt Katydid, Uncle Ant, and others sympathize until an unexpected encounter with Crow quickly restores Old Cricket’s agility. Clever wordplay and amusing illustrations of the insect world add to read-aloud fun.

Kathy Piehl is a librarian at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Media Picks

By Phyllis Levy Mandell

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! DVD. 8 min. with tchr’s. guide. Weston Woods ( 2008. ISBN 0-545-09211-1. $59.95; CD, ISBN 978-0-545-09445-0, $12.95; CD with hardcover book. ISBN 978-0-545-09453-5: $29.95. PreS-Gr 2–Bob Barner’s book (Chronicle, 1999) is animated, set to music, and performed in a rap style for this fun production. The bouncy, rhyming text and vivid cut-paper collage illustrations describe buzzing bees, fuzzy caterpillars, hopping grasshoppers, and more. The DVD extends the book, adding a “Meet the Bugs” section that provides additional interesting facts about the featured creatures and using the bug graph at the back of the book as the basis for a “Bug-o-meter” game.

Diary of a Fly. cassette or CD. 13:17 min. with hardcover book. Live Oak Media ( 2008. cassette, ISBN 978-1-43010-404-9: $25.95; CD, ISBN 978-1-43010-407-0: $28.95. PreS-Gr 3–A young fly documents everyday situations in her diary, from fitting in on the first day of school to having trouble with the babysitter in this book (HarperCollins, 2007) written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss. Fly wants to be a superhero, but she’s worried that she isn’t special enough. Worm and Spider help her learn that “the world needs all kinds of heroes.” This humorous tale includes lots of amazing facts about flies. Monarch and Milkweed. DVD. 16 min. with tchr’s. guide. Nutmeg Media ( 2008. ISBN 1-933938-54-4. $49.95. K-Gr 4–Information about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and its relationship with its host plant, the milkweed, is presented in Helen Frost’s book (Atheneum, 2008). There are beautiful descriptions of a young caterpillar being “shorter than an eyelash” and the chrysalis resembling “a shining jewel, jade green, speckled with gold.” The monarch’s life cycle and travels from North America to Mexico are discussed. Outstanding watercolor illustrations by Leonid Gore are panned and harp music plays in the background. Who Wants to Be an Entomologist? DVD. 35 min. Creepy Crawly Zoo ( 2008. $19.99. Gr 2-6–Tony Gustin, “The Bug Whisperer,” has produced a hilarious introduction to entomology featuring fun graphics, special effects, and fast-paced dialogue. Insects and arthropods are clearly defined. Viewers are encouraged to go out and find insects. This is science at its best—interesting, fun, and very approachable.

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