I liked making my list of books last week, so I’m going to continue the theme this week by focusing on children’s books. I love children’s books! I don’t have kids and all of my friends with kids live far away from me, but I still love to wander through children’s book aisles and see what they have to offer. Children’s books have a way of condensing important concepts down into easily digestible chunks that I find admirable and I think everyone should read them.
Kids often LOVE insects, so there are tons and tons of great insect books out there for kids and pre-teens. Here are five of my favorites from my own collection!
Who doesn’t love The Very Hungry Caterpillar? I was hooked on this book when I was a kid, and now I give it to my friends as a baby gift so they can share the love with the next generation. I think it’s brilliant! The illustrations are outstanding, the text is perfect for young kids, and there’s an educational message to boot. Eric Carle is beloved by millions of children for a reason: his books are darned good! If there’s one children’s insect book everyone should have in their collection, it’s this one. (Carle wrote several other entomologically themed books as well, so I encourage you to check them out!)
Insect Poetry: Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
This book is a ton of fun if you’re a kid! It was released when I was in 5th grade, so I was just the right age to fully appreciate it when it was first given to me. Joyful Noise is a collection of lovely Newbury Award winning insect poems accompanied by drawings. What makes this book better than your average insect poetry book is that the poems are meant to be read aloud – and by two people. In my experience, you really need to practice with your poetry partner to pull one of these poems off well, but trying is half the fun! And, you don’t even realize you’re learning something in the process.
This is my absolute favorite book for kids! A friend of mine told me about it while we were in the field collecting insects for the National Park Service. I knew I had to have it and I hunted it down the moment we returned to civilization. I was instantly smitten! Like Joyful Noise, this book is full of poems, this time focusing on aquatic animals. But this book is ultimately my favorite children’s book because it is full of complex and expertly executed woodcut prints as illustrations. Woodcuts and linocuts are among my very favorite art forms, so I think the illustrations make this book phenomenal. And I’m not the only one – Song of the Water Boatman won a Caldecott Medal for its illustrations, securing its place in history as one of the most spectacularly illustrated books ever! The poems teach kids about life in ponds and feature a lot of information about aquatic insects. As you might imagine, I rarely come across a book that combines my passion for aquatic insects with my love of woodcut art prints, but this book accomplishes it spectacularly. Buy it, read it, love it. Send it to your friends and family with nature loving kids. I certainly do!
Imagine that you are doing an outreach activity for kids that involves insects, or going to your child’s classroom to teach them something about science using insects. You need a hook, something to get them really into the subject. How about having them make the sucking mosquitoes from pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and eye droppers featured in this book? I’ve been into crafts since I was about 4 years old and I’ve read hundreds of craft books for both children and adults over my lifetime. As far as I’m concerned, this is THE best insect craft book for kids. It’s great because it is full of wildly creative craft ideas that require only simple materials, are easy for almost any kid to do (that kid in the back who eats glue and can’t draw a straight line? He can make the things in this book!), and are surprisingly educational. And kids love to make the things in this book! I might not have my own kids, but I’ve done a ton of outreach activities with all ages of children. The crafts in this book are a huge success every time I incorporate them into my sessions. I highly recommend it!
Yes, THAT Gary Larson, creator of the entomologist-beloved The Far Side. And because it’s Larson, save this book for older children or pre-teens. This story isn’t about insects, but it does feature another invertebrate, the humble earthworm. The narrative is quite cute and innocent on the surface, but it has darker undercurrents that are wickedly pro-environment and vividly illustrate the reasons why its necessary for humans to understand our world. It also highlights the ecosystem concept, how things in an environment tie together with each organism playing a specific role, and illustrates how things can go terribly wrong if humans interfere. The story is a little dark, but it makes some excellent points that everyone should acknowledge. I use excerpts from this book to explain ecosystem concepts to nearly everyone – kids, teens, and adults. It’s clever and entertaining, but it teaches you something very valuable about the world in the process. And, it’s done in Larson’s signature style, so you know it’s going to be good!
There are so many other great insect books for kids out there that I might have to do another post on the subject. For next week’s Friday 5, however, I’ll get away from the literature and head back into the realm of insects. I hope you’ll check back!
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