Review of Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs
by Carol Murray; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary    Ottaviano/Holt    40 pp.
5/17    978-0-8050-9818-1    $17.99

Twenty-nine common insects and arachnids (from ants to spiny-back spiders) are on display in Murray’s lively poems and Sweet’s inviting mixed-media illustrations. The titular cricket opens the proceedings in a poem mimicking an elusive cricket’s unpredictable chirping: “Cricket in the thicket, cricket. / Cricket in the house, cricket. / Cricket in the bedroom, not as quiet as a mouse, cricket… / Cricket, / Cricket, / Cricket, / Cricket. / Where are you?” The poems employ a variety of forms and rhythmic structures; Murray skillfully uses line breaks and meter to bring her subjects to life. “Dragons Fly the Sky” calls to mind a dragonfly’s darting, gliding trajectory: “A lovely wisp, / awash in blue, / with light and lacy wings, / a mini-glider in the sky, who S O A R S / but never stings.” Sweet’s colorful collage illustrations incorporate scraps of yellowed pages from old entomological journals — a nod to the solid information embedded in the poems, accompanying fact boxes, and three appended pages of notes in the back matter about the creatures. The supporting details are nicely varied and include physiological facts, cultural tidbits (“in Japan and China, people keep crickets as pets for their song”), and/or scientific applications (fruit flies “are important in genetic research because the larvae possess unusually large chromosomes”). It all adds up to a friendly package that should draw in even bug-phobic readers, providing a nonthreatening entrée into the insect world.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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