Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, March 10, 2014

Marvelous Menagerie

Careful gardeners spend much of their time at plant level, working the soil and tending to the growth of the flowers, vegetables and shrubs.  When doing this, they are greeted by intriguing sights.  Hikers who realize they are alone in a forest, depending on the time of year, will find the silence gradually filling with sound.  These beings we see and hear may be small, but they are mighty in importance.

Their communities fill our undeveloped landscapes, backyards and cities.  Just in time to herald in another spring Some Bugs (Beach Lane Books, March 4, 2014) written by Angela DiTerlizzi with illustrations by Brendan Wenzel inched, leaped and flew into readers' hands last week.  Let's go for a walk on the buggy side of life.

Some bugs STING.
Some bugs BITE.
Some bugs STINK.
And some bugs FIGHT.

With those four statements we are winding our way down the possibility path of questions and answers.  Which bugs do which things?  Which bugs would never sting, bite, stink or fight?  Let's explore some more to get it right.

These interesting, incredible insects either move on land, through the air, over and under water slowly, quickly, smoothly or in spurts.  They can form a ball to make themselves appear small.  Is that a leaf, a twig, stem or stalk?  Hiding to stay safe, you won't hear them talk.

Later, danger departed, their noise fills the air like a crazy critter band.  They create, carry and search according to some internal command.  Let's seek, peek and find these living prizes whether wearing their finest or sporting disguises.

Angela DiTerlizzi certainly know her audience; conveying the realm of insects with a rhythm and rhyme certain to generate interest and movement in equal measure.  Using the title words repetitively she encourages a give-and-take relationship between the reader and the narrative while pointing out the individual characteristics of her bug personalities.  When authors piece words together to form a cadence, a musical melody takes shape.  DiTerlizzi takes readers up to a delightful crescendo, dropping down to a softer moment before releasing us to partake in a joyous adventure.

Upon opening up the dust jacket covering the matching book case, we see a single illustration stretching from flap edge to flap edge. We zoom in on the bug's world as if we have become one of them.  It's a mixed media montage of color, light and suspended sound. The bright golden yellow in the flower petals becomes the solid background of the opening and closing endpapers.

On the initial title page a single bug peeks out from blades of grass.  The two page spread for the formal title page begins the illustrative story; a cat walks outside down a stone pathway, insect nets and a glass jar in sight.  A lone ladybug crawls down a stick from the rain gutter. (On the final page, the verso, the ladybug is crawling back up into the spout.)

All of the visuals span across two pages; each a bug's eye view except for the final two.  What Brendan Wenzel does is to focus on certain sections of a greater whole, until the wide angle view of the entire backyard.  It's a wonderful concept, beautifully executed.

To tell you the truth, it's almost impossible to pick a favorite illustration.  What Wenzel does with a single sentence is fantastic and fun.  His pictures for

Some bugs curl up in a Ball.
And some bugs TAKE.  

are lighthearted and captivating.  For the first we see a raccoon peering over a log with fungus ledges at a forest floor covered in mushrooms, pill bugs, a lady bug and a woolly bear caterpillar.  In the second we see an army of ants busily removing items from a picnic basket above and below the ground.

No matter how many times I've read this book, Some Bugs written by Angela DiTerlizzi with illustrations by Brendan Wenzel, I end up smiling.  It's a lively look, a bright and busy book, about a world within our world.  Prior to the publication information and dedication, two pages are dedicated to identifying all the pictured insects.

I can see using this book as a reader's theater or turning it into a small play.  It could be paired with Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons, Bugs Galore by Peter Stein with illustrations by Bob Staake or Bugs by the Numbers:  facts and figures for multiple types of bugbeasties by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss.  For more information about Brendan Wenzel please follow the link to his website embedded in his name above.  Follow this link to a recent interview of Angela DiTerlizzi at John Schumacher's website, Watch. Connect. Read.

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