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The birds and the bees…and the arachnids and more!

Four entertaining nonfiction picture books provide young readers with solid scientific information about the birds and the bees — and other insects and arachnids, too! — in friendly, accessible formats.

In Eileen Christelow’s humorous, informative Robins!: How They Grow Up, two young robins reminisce about the events of their (very recent) youth. The details covered are extensive: we see the contributions that both parents make throughout the fledglings’ early days, and the developmental milestones (leaving the nest, finding their own food, socializing with other robins) they reach on the way to independence. Action-filled and accurate illustrations make excellent use of panels to depict multiple perspectives on bird poses and behavior, as well as moment-by-moment events. (Clarion, 5–8 years)

The main character of Bethany Barton’s Give Bees a Chance — a wide-eyed cartoon boy named Edgar — definitely doesn’t like bees. This gives the author an opportunity to make the case for bees’ importance, turning facts about the insect into a funny, relatable pro-bee argument. The topics covered range from how honey is made to what beekeepers do, plus the critical role bees play in pollinating crops. The illustrations add to the casualness of the narrative, combining sketches of emotive bees and people with cheerful background splashes and scribbles of color. (Viking, 5–8 years)

Paul Meisel’s My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis is narrated by…a female praying mantis. The first-person (first-insect?) text provides readers with an up-close look at her five-month-long life cycle. Breezy entries offer intriguing information about her species’ growth, behavior, diet, and habitat. Friendly acrylic illustrations match the narrative’s informal, drily humorous tone. Alarming habits are reported in the same matter-of-fact way as molting or locomotion: “July 19. Ran into one of my brothers. He tried to eat me. So I ate him.” (Holiday, 5–8 years)

In Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs readers meet twenty-nine common insects and arachnids, from ants to spiny-back spiders. Carol Murray’s spirited poems employ a variety of forms and rhythmic structures to bring her subjects to life. Melissa Sweet’s brightly colorful collage illustrations incorporate scraps of yellowed pages from old entomological journals — a nod to the solid information embedded in the poems and accompanying fact boxes. It all adds up to a friendly package that should draw in bug-phobic readers, providing a nonthreatening entrée into the insect world. (Holt/Ottaviano, 5–8 years)

From the June 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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