You know it’s spring when, in any available yard or park, kids can be found kneeling on the ground, inspecting the local bug population. These four picture books will help answer kids’ questions about their favorite neighborhood critters as well as about a bunch they’re unlikely to encounter in real life.
One insect you won’t find in your backyard (unless you live in the Amazon) is the titan beetle, with jaws “powerful enough to snap a pencil in half.” Kids have the opportunity to marvel over this and numerous other beetles in Steve Jenkins’s The Beetle Book. Colorful cut-paper beetles stand out crisply from the white backgrounds. They’re remarkably detailed, right down to the intricate patterns on wing casings and the delicate nature of the insects’ legs. (5–8 years)
Profiles of eight insects (and one spider) that make their own dwellings are presented in Roxie Munro’s Busy Builders. As always, Munro expertly employs perspective, on one page zooming in close enough to see the hairs on an insect’s legs and the shape of its antennae, and then on the next backing out to feature the geometric details of its home. Detailed explanations on the construction techniques and purposes of the structures are interwoven with facts about life cycles, food sources, and habitats. (6–9 years)
In Douglas Florian’s UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings, puns and wordplay enliven the poems, and rhythmic verse echoes bee behavior, as much with sound as with sense (“I’m a nectar collector. / Make wax to the max. / A beehive protector. / I never relax”). A paragraph of facts elucidates each spread, but the real energy here is in the deceptively casual watercolors that illustrate this offbeat and attractive book. (5–8 years)
As selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, poets including X. J. Kennedy, Alice Schertle, and Kristine O’Connell George celebrate Nasty Bugs. Kids who love bugs for their yuck factor will appreciate these verses about lice, ticks, bedbugs, stink bugs, cockroaches, and more. Will Terry’s luridly vivid illustrations show the anthropomorphic critters up-close and personal. Three pages at the back provide scientific information about each bug. (6–8 years)