________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 8 . . . . December 5, 2008

cover Focus on Flies.

Norma Dixon.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008. 32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55005-128-5.

Subject Heading:
Flies-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.



When old habitats became hostile, True Flies took to the air and found new ones. They settled in rain forests and deserts, tundra and grasslands – in every nook and cranny on Earth, except at the frozen Poles. Wherever they landed, flies had to complete with other creatures for food and space.

Flies were very successful survivors. Their tiny size helped – it doesn’t take much food to feed a fly. Their ability to fly helped as well, since there’s no faster way of escaping earth-bound predators. Flies were also good at adapting, or developing physical features and habits that made it easier to find food, out-smart enemies and produce new generations.

Getting up close and personal with the fly is the objective of this book which is full of amazing facts and bold, bright photos and illustrations. It wisely opens with a chapter on “Horrible Habits,” sure to engage the young reader to whom ‘gross’ factor appeals. Once hooked, the reader is given a tour of fly history, including kinds and classification to help sort out the True Flies (over 125,000 species) from the best known imposter, the dragonfly. A closer examination of anatomy follows, along with life cycle. The book includes several activities for the fly fanatic: how to collect and sort dead specimens, a field trip to discovery diversity, building a fruit fly trap for closer study. A glossary provides helpful explanations of terms such as genus, and a list of books and websites to learn more will allow the young reader to investigate the topic further.

     Facts and visuals are well laid out with plenty of color and bold headings. Intriguing details are included: stable fly bites stressed and killed 61 of 70 lions in Tanzania; a robotic fly has been invented that may help rescue earthquake victims. You’ll even learn how to catch a fly in your hand! However, after learning how fast the planet could be 14 metres deep in flies, I didn’t learn about enemies of the fly. The organization of the book is well thought out, with the possible exception of Chapter 8, a double-page spread of “A Fly’s World.” With only four captions on the drawing showing where flies hang out, these pages seem like unnecessary filler. The few details could have been included in the first chapter, along with the cutaway showing flies that share our houses.

     Other minor complaints include a couple of drawings that were minimally useful: a line of 14 ‘legs’ (hard to tell some of them apart) to show how a fly walks using three legs at a time as a tripod, and fly outlines to show wing movement (a ‘spot the difference’ puzzle?). The accompanying explanations were easier to decipher. One reference to fly habits might be misleading as it seems to suggest manure, leaves and carcasses are ‘human garbage’: “Flies have pestered humans since humans started leaving their garbage lying around. Flies are attracted to all kinds of garbage – from fresh manure to decaying food, leaves and carcasses.” And the use of binoculars in the field trip activity to watch flies might be a frustrating exercise for kids.

internal art

     Generally, the book is fact-packed and informative and meets its objective. Kids looking for easy to access information will find it appealing. It appears to be the second title in a series (Focus on Flies, Lowdown on Earthworms). Hopefully more will follow.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.