Aaron, Maxwell, and Bradley are also loving this weather but for a slightly different reason: Bugs. These boys spend practically every waking moment outside in the dirt--digging, collecting, studying. I'm really amazed by their persistence and patience. Max has been diligently trying to share his bug love with other people...the little neighbor girls, my sister, my sister-in-law...all have been supplicated with, "Do you want to hold my bug. He's reeeeeally nice."
When they're not finding bugs, they're engaged in serious research, and I almost haven't been able to bring books home from the library fast enough to quench their insatiable curiosity. Here are three that I would eventually love to add to our collection:
1. The Beetle Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta, illus. David BiedrzyckiWhen I first checked out this book from the library, I knew the boys would love it, but I didn't think I would. I was so wrong. I'm generally not a fan of themed alphabet books or bug anthologies, but I guess something magical must happen when you put the two together because this is an awesome book.
Each page features a different beetle beginning with a different letter of the alphabet; there's the African Goliath Beetle, the Bombardier Beetle, and the Cucumber Beetle for starters. I had no idea there was such a wide variety of beetles. (And apparently, there are WAY more than the 26 mentioned in this book.)
Each page also highlights a really cool fact about the featured beetle. And when I say "really cool," I really do mean "really cool." For instance, did you know that the African Goliath Beetle is so huge, children in Africa tie a string around their "necks" and keep them as pets? Or that the Bombardier Beetle sprays a poisonous gas to protect itself? Each fact is short and fascinating with just enough detail to make it memorable but not enough to make it feel bogged down or too technical. (And lest you be worried, let me assure you that in the midst of all those fun facts are also all the standard insect facts (a beetle has six legs, etc.), so it's a very well-rounded book.)
There are two things I love about the illustrations: first, they look real enough that if I saw, say, a Harlequin Beetle on the ground, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to correctly identify it. Second, on every page there is a silhouette of the beetle shown at its actual size. So my boys can see the large detailed replica but also get a visual idea of what size bug they should be looking for (since they will be looking for it). (The only exception is the African Goliath Beetle which is so large they couldn't include both the colored drawing and the silhouette.)
Last, what would an excellent beetle book be without a few impostors thrown in? There is a bee, a spider, and a cockroach hidden between some of the letters. These pages explain why these particular bugs are definitely not beetles. This book is on my list of must-buys in the near future.
2. Creepy Creatures: Spiders, Valerie BoddenI know I've mentioned Aaron's love of spiders more than once. The boy is obsessed. He can spot a spider in any book, no matter how tiny or inconsequential. One of his first "real" drawings was of a spider and spider web (after reading Swirl By Swirl). And in real life? He is drawn to them like a magnet. I don't think Maxwell quite shares his fascination, but he definitely enjoys knowing how to make me squeamish.
Even though I can't stand spiders, I am happy to indulge Aaron in this interest, and we have checked out numerous books featuring spiders. This is one of his favorites. The photography is truly excellent. (There is one photo of a garden spider glistening with dew that I find almost breathtaking. And several more that are so hideous they make my skin crawl.)
The real reason I'm featuring this book, however, is so I can talk about the entire Creepy Creatures series, which we have checked out and loved. Besides spiders, the series includes books about centipedes, crickets, mantises, scorpions, and worms. The one about crickets is currently waiting for us at the library, but we've read all the other ones. Aaron and Maxwell literally carry these books everywhere with them. I caught them the other day with several of them outside showing their favorite pages to the neighbor girls through the fence. (The girls, incidentally, were unimpressed.)
I really love the length of these books as well as the information shared. My one complaint is that they don't contain any sort of index or labeling of the featured bugs. So when, for example, I am totally creeped out by the picture of the giant spider next to the words, "Others are as big as a plate!", and I want to see what kind of spider that is and if there is any chance of me ever seeing one in my backyard (or worse, my basement), there isn't any identification anywhere on the page or in the back of the book. It's so frustrating not to be able to answer Aaron's or Maxwell's questions of, "What kind of spider is that?" It's such an excellent series, so it's really a shame they didn't choose to identify the various kinds of featured creatures.
3. Yucky Worms, Vivian French, illus. Jessica AhlbergCurrently, the boys are collecting box elder bugs, but a few days ago, they were turning over every rock in our yard in the hope of uncovering a long, thin worm (the fat, juicy ones were a little too...fat and juicy for them). This book did much to satisfy their curiosity and answer their questions about worms.
A little boy and his grandma are working in the garden when Grandma digs up "a slimy, slithery, wiggly worm." The boy is disgusted and wants his grandma to throw it away. But the grandma proceeds to tell him about all of the wonderful things worms do and why they are a much-desired contributor to any garden.
I love that the framework for this book is a natural dialogue between grandmother and grandson. There is so much great information in this book (like, worms actually eat dirt to help them digest other food; and also, they like moist, damp places but they can't swim; and they help aerate the soil and also fertilize it), but it all happens in such an easy, conversational way. Aaron and Maxwell have a grandma like the one in the story, so that increased our fondness for the book.
I also loved the ideas this book gave for how to explore and learn about worms on your own. It talked about looking for worm casts and also watering some soil to see if any worms would come up; both are things Aaron and Maxwell could do and which would help them make their own observations and apply what they learned from the book in new ways.
I was originally planning on sharing six favorite bug books in this post, but I am just too long-winded, so I decided I had to break it up. So stay tuned because tomorrow I will be sharing three MORE favorite bug books. (I know the anticipation may put you over the edge, but try to be patient. Good things come to those who wait.)
I shared this post with The Children's Bookshelf and the Kid's Co-op.