Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Embracing The Night And Its Creatures

One of the numerous benefits of having a canine companion is the late-night jaunts.  Depending on the weather and phases of the moon, gazing at the sky reveals wondrous marvels, patterns of stars and the sighting of a planet.  In stillness there are sights and sounds in each of the four seasons; spring peppers singing a chorus, fireflies signaling in a series of affectionate blinks, the crackling of fallen leaves beneath walking feet or paws and the sharp crack as sap freezes in tree branches.  In the darkness coyotes howl and owls hoot.

Other creatures of the night drawn out by darkness flutter fondly toward light.  You're Invited To A Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration (Charlesbridge, April 7, 2020) written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz is a doorway into an exceptional experience.  Through words and pictures we travel into the magic this special night reveals to all participants.

What's that?  You don't know what a moth ball is?
Please come anyway!  You can learn as we go.

A moth ball is an event designed to attract and enjoy moths.  You'll be astonished to know--

There are more than 150,000 different moth species, and hundreds of them---possibly thousands live where you do.

When a party presents an opportunity to meet more moths than you normally see, it is a special situation.

There is necessary equipment to host this unique party.  You'll want to have a source of light so you can navigate, a notebook, a pencil, a means to capture moments digitally or on film, and perhaps a magnifying glass so you can look closely at a moth's characteristics.  To attract moths, you'll need something on which they can rest, a light to bring them to you, and a sweet treat they'll love.

The more you know about moths, the more you can appreciate them.  Did you know moths tend to like ultraviolet light the best?  Some moths, like other insects and birds, love to sip on nectar.  Did you know the main difference between butterflies and moths is their antennae?  What feature is never seen on moth antennae?  By studying each physical attribute and the habitat of your moths, you can more easily identify them.

Once darkness descends moths gather near your light source and your enticing snack.  Approach them with respect.  Write down what you see.  Carefully capture them with pictures.  Express gratitude to all the attendees.  When will you arrange for this summer sensation?

Through engaging conversation author Loree Griffin Burns presents to children, actually readers of all ages, the step by step process for an entertaining and educational evening.  Her inclusion of materials and setup is easily understood.  She then allows for a pause in the process explaining more about the insects to be observed at the moth ball.  Her factual paragraphs have specific headings.

We then find ourselves in the midst of the moth ball.  Loreen Griffin Burns guides us through the excitement.  Then in another series of paragraphs we are presented with further details about moth balls, moths, supplies and setup.  Here is a passage from one of the additional paragraphs and the main narrative.

. . .
There are other clues, too.  Different moth
species live in different habitats.  A moth's life
cycle, particularly the caterpillar stage, depends
on the plants available in its environment.  So
noting the habitat in which you found your moth
(woodland? wetland? meadow?) and the types
of plants and trees in that habitat can sometimes
help you identify your moth.

Some people never, not once in their
whole lives, connect with moths this
way.  So take your time.  Soak it all in.

The full color nighttime scene on the front of the open jacket, a real photograph, has the quality of a watercolor painting, full of soft texture.  The lighting at the hanging sheet for the moths and in the nearby tent create an air of mystery and enchantment.  To the left, on the back, on a black background, are eight different moths.  They form a circle around the words:

Let's go mothing!

Those same moths with one more appear on the left side of the open book case.  On the front of the book case a large moth, wings spread is placed.  All of them look as though they could fly away within the blink of an eye.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a velvety black.  On the initial title page two moths hover over what appears to be the heading of an invitation.  With a page turn seven moths spread over two pages are shown to the left of a formal invitation designed for the title page.

Each photograph by Ellen Harasimowicz is an enlightening visual feast.  The image sizes vary to accentuate the text.  They are full-page pictures, one-and-one-half-page photographs to create a column, small insets with labels, two page horizontal illustrations with labels, a gallery of three grouped on a single page and two-page photographs, page edge to page edge.  Each one, usually featuring children, brings readers into the day of preparations and the evening of enjoyment.  We are shown a variety of points of view, too.

One of my many, many favorite photographs is a full-page picture.  It's at night.  A child wearing a headlamp is standing on the bottom railing of a wooden fence.  She's looking at an area where a treat was left for moths.  In the background, to the right, the lamp inside the rounded tent is glowing.  You can feel the warmth of the summer night.  You can hear the crickets chirping.  And for one brief moment, you're that child hardly daring to breathe as you watch the moths on the fence post.

For those longing for a new adventure and respect of insects who love the dark, You're Invited To A Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz is a stellar selection.  At the close of the book is an Author's Note, a Photographer's Note, a Glossary and Resources for Further Reading, Bibliography, and Websites.  This book is a welcome resource for your personal and professional collections.  It's a chance and a challenge to become a better citizen scientist.

To learn more about Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At Loree Griffin Burns website there are resources for teachers.  Loree Griffin Burns has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Ellen Harasimowicz has accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Maria Marshall interviews STEAM authors on her blog, including Loree Griffin Burns and showcases this title.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image and there are resources to download.  Here is a link to a chance to win a Moth Ball Starter Pack sponsored by the publisher.  At Penguin Random House you can view additional images.  At Teachers Books Readers Loree Griffin Burns is interviewed.  Please take a few moments to watch this video.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. I'm intrigued just by the cleverness of the title!

  2. Another new book about the night, wow! This sounds like lots of fun and so full of information. Thanks, Margie!

  3. What a wonderful and unusual topic!