Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Creeping, Crawling, Flying, Swimming, Jumping Into Our Lives

The universe has a gift sometimes for bringing humor into a situation.  It's not every day you walk into your kitchen to run water into the sink and have the children's tune The Ants Go Marching One By One pop into your head.  This is exactly what happened yesterday and again this morning.  It seems lack of rain was bringing the wee critters into my home.  I politely asked them to leave.  Mother Nature replied to my request by providing a rain shower which ended the situation entirely.

Our planet is swarming with insects and invertebrates that make their homes inside and outside our residences.  For the most part sharing space with them is acceptable unless they create dangerous conditions for us.  The Big Book Of Bugs (Thames & Hudson, April 18, 2016) written and illustrated by London-based author illustrator Yuval Zommer is brimming with facts and fun about insects and invertebrates.

Can you find . . .
. . .exactly the same fly 15 times in
this book?  Watch our for imposters.

With this challenge on the title page readers begin to seek and find fascinating information in the twenty-six two-page chapters.  First an explanation and comparison of invertebrates and insects is offered.  This is followed by suggestions of places to spy bugs and the importance of respecting them.  A further breakdown of similarities and differences between insects, snails and slugs, spiders, centipedes and millipedes and worms is given.

In many of the chapters, in addition to a series of amazing characteristics for each group, we are asked to locate a specific bug (s) engaged in an activity.  Two dung beetles are rolling poo into big balls.  We need to find them among all the other creatures busily moving among the foliage on the two-page first section dedicated to beetles.  Have you ever seen a ladybug without spots?

Do the wings on butterflies or moths feel like dust?  Which one prefers to flit about at night?  Wow!  A queen ant has been known to live for fifteen years!  Bees communicate locations with a special dance.  Termites keep cool in their huge towers even in the heat as it rises out through a chimney.  Flies and dragonflies creatively search for food with particular skills; multiple eye lenses (4000) and large eyes for seeing into the distance.

Small birds, amphibians and mammals will probably give a giant centipede a wide berth; especially if one is hungry.  Did you know that crickets and grasshoppers do not make their songs in the same manner?  In praying mantis's circles the female is larger than her male counterpart making him a tasty meal for her.  Earthworms can sense danger uniquely.

After discussing a variety of insects and invertebrates Zommer highlights bug beginnings, how bugs move, bugs living inside our homes, the benefits of bugs and establishing outside places specifically for these creatures. In case we may not have found all fifteen flies, their whereabouts are shown at the end.  Two pages showcase becoming familiar with vocabulary.  To close this exemplary title, an index is included.

For each of the two-page chapters Yuval Zommer poses a question or gives us a partial statement.  He follows with easily understood answers and sentences.  Those truths he selects to share with readers are captivating; between four and seven per section.  Here are some samples.

Some moths have "pretend" eyes
The big spots on an owl moth's wings
look like eyes and scare enemies.

They are bad flyers
Crickets and grasshoppers have two
pairs of wings, but most aren't good
at flying.  And some can't fly at all.

A beetle with a snorkel
A water scorpion can float to
the surface and take in air
through a tube.

When you open the book case of this title, the array of expressive, spirited insects and invertebrates spreads across the spine to the back on the left.  Yuval Zommer adds a mosquito flying above the crowd and a spider dropping down on a string of silk.  If you, the reader, look at each bug carefully you will discover a bit of comedy, a smidgen of glee in every one.  A pale blue, cloud-like effect provides a canvas on the opening and closing endpapers.  Zommer has a group of honey bees moving through the center first and at the conclusion flying off the pages.

In the illustrations the intricate and exquisite lines along with the shades of color are spectacular.  Zommer layers many, many tiny parts to create a type of collage.  You have to stop at every page turn to fully appreciate these fabulous pictures.  The experience for readers is more tactile due to the heavier matte-finished paper used in this book.

The variety of settings keeps readers completely engaged.  On the first two pages his "bugs" are leaving the pages of an open book.  Bright-colored tennis shoes and the bottom portion of blue jeans are seen walking among these critters as tools used to document what has been found and seen are nearby. Trees, leaves, flowers, a window sill, tiny tunnels beneath a sandy mound, honey bee hives, tall termite towers, a picnic, a pond, and underground are all part of this marvelous volume.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for pond bugs.  On the surface of the pond a paper boat fashioned from a newspaper page floats as a snail crawls up the point, a bug sits on the edge and dragonflies come in for a landing.  Bugs glide on the water's surface.  Bugs swim, dive and scoot underwater through the seaweed, along pebbles and rocks and the sandy bottom.

I can't imagine a professional or personal shelf without a copy of this beautiful, informative nonfiction picture book. The Big Book of Bugs written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer is a celebration of our natural world.  I would plan on multiple copies.  Bug expert Barbara Taylor is named as a consultant.

To learn more about Yuval Zommer please follow the link attached to his name.  At The Guardian Children's books page, Yuval Zommer visits to provide colorful instructions in How to draw...bugs.

UPDATE:  Enjoy this short book trailer and see interior images come to life. 

It is a distinct pleasure each week to participate in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please visit this site to see what titles were selected this week by other participating bloggers.


  1. I am fascinated by any book that makes me interested in bugs. I am so disgusted by them yet they are so fascinating!

    1. This book is for you Kellee. In fact when I was out with a group of friends this evening after a concert, I was stating facts from this very fun book. Every time I see a bug now, I think of something I learned in this book or one of the other bug books this year or last year. We have great choices but each one is different but equally fantastic. This one is totally different. The illustrations are stunning.