Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What's Buzzing?

The more you know about the purpose and place of insects in the chain of life, respect grows.  On the other hand when they, especially flies, attempt to enter my home, I am as vigilant as a starving frog on a lily pad making sure access is denied.  There is no doubt the sounds emanating from these little critters are particularly annoying.  

On more than one occasion despite my escalating irritation, a bit of admiration for their persistence has been known to appear.  In a title released on March 10, 2015 author Bridget Heos and illustrator Jennifer Plecas give these buzzing beings their due.  I, Fly:  The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are (Henry Holt and Company) presents the facts, setting the record straight.

Hey, kids!
What are you

Our picked-on protagonist proceeds to point out flying technique and metamorphosis similarities between flies and butterflies.  The first point of interest is flies lay 500 eggs.  This would explain their overabundance on the first warm days in spring even though snow is still on the ground. 

During the maggot stage, after the eggs hatch, they feast on all manner of gross to us, but gourmet to them things before advancing to pupae.  Inside this enclosure their adult selves form.  You will be surprised at how quickly the adults become parents and their offspring become parents.  The number of flies in various stages of reproduction is staggering.  

With only two wings rather than the four wings on butterflies, their sound (which our narrator feels is like music) is created when moving 200 times per second.  Do you know how flies keep their balance when flying?  Fly explains this with a little show-and-tell.

When the students are given an opportunity to ask questions, Fly remains truthful.  We learn about their regurgitation habits, knack for spreading diseases, why they keep clean and their relationship to mosquitoes.  We come to understand their survival struggles and their assistance in solving crimes and in the study of illnesses.  Hip, hip hooray for flies!  What a minute.  What's that sound?  

An author has a true gift when they can make you smile the entire time you are reading about the life cycle of flies and their significance.  By making the narrator a fly speaking to a classroom of students studying butterflies, Bridget Heos brings a vivid authenticity to the delivery of the information.  Told entirely in dialogue with text and speech balloons, the sentences uttered by Fly will have you laughing out loud.  Here is a sample passage.  

Back in my maggot days, I ate a lot!  But my siblings and I didn't eat flowers like those fancy-schmancy caterpillars.  We ate poop and trash.  And we still do.

Wait a second!  Is that a trash can?

When you first look at the matching dust jacket and book case, the accents in red on the front and along the spine grab your attention.  The expressions on the children and the total (I can't believe I'm-saying this.) cuteness of the fly seal the deal.  To the left, on the back, two of the students ask questions and are answered by Fly through speech bubbles placed on the same sky blue background as shown on the front.  A cheerful yellow canvas patterned in diamonds made with dashes feature Fly in the center in a variety of positions and wearing different facial looks on the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, bigger than life, Fly is zooming toward the school.

Rendered in traditional media and Photoshop the illustrations by Jennifer Plecas playfully heighten the prose.  Simply moving the eye dots on Fly we are fully aware of his feelings, accentuating his words.  When the text explains halteres, she has the butterfly holding a magnifying glass next to Fly increasing our understanding.  

  With each page turn her images alter in size with respect to the discussion being presented by Fly.  She adds informational messages by showing us diagrams on the classroom blackboard and flip chart easels. These visuals are centered in realism with a fun-filled twist.  It's not every day a fly stops by to chat with you.   

One of my favorite illustrations is of Fly explaining where they go in the winter.  He is dressed in a red, knitted cap, checkered scarf and wearing four mittens and two boots on his legs.  Hovering over a snowy landscape his explains how the larvae or pupae snuggle in during the cold months.  At the bottom flies are flitting about over green grass and flowers.

While the disgust factor may be high when you first hear about this book, let me be the first to tell you it will vanish as soon as you see the cover, endpapers and read the first few pages.  I, Fly:  The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are written by Bridget Heos with illustrations by Jennifer Plecas is chock-full of facts and fun. This is a nonfiction winner complete with a Glossary and Some Other Fun Words to Know, a Select Bibliography and a list of three Experts who assisted the author.  

Please follow the links attached to Bridget Heos's and Jennifer Plecas's names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view eight interior illustrations. Elizabeth Bird, author and New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist, showcases this title among others on flies and spiders on her blog, A Fuse #8 Production.

Feel free to head over to Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the other highlighted titles by bloggers participating in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. I really want to read this book, but the library hasn't ordered it yet! Often if I wait a month, it ends up there :) My library is great for pre-ordering fiction, a little slower on the nonfiction.

    1. I hope your library is able to get a copy soon. This is the style of nonfiction everyone likes to read. I know I do. ☺

  2. I need to read this book because I just think flies are so gross. Maybe this book can help me understand them better (and make them seem less yucky. Or more.)

    1. I have to agree with you Kellee. I think they are truly gross but this books sheds new light on their abilities while explaining their less than savory habits. I guarantee you will be laughing while you are cringing.

  3. I found this title at the book store, skimmed through it and was instantly sold! I know my students will love it and I can't wait to read it aloud to them. I predict many will reread multiple times after that!

    1. I ordered this title from my local indie bookstore based upon a bit of buzz I read somewhere. Well, they were right. I think your students are going to laugh as they learn when you read this aloud. I think your prediction is right.

  4. I love materials that have a rich backmatter. The book cover also looks particularly inviting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!