________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007


Don't Squash that Bug! The Curious Kid's Guide to Insects. (Lobster Learners Series).

Natalie Rompella.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897073-50-6.

Subject Heading:
Insects-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



What can be more annoying than a fly buzzing around your house?

Itchy mosquito bites! Both of these insects along with fruit flies and gnats belong to the diptera order. Like helicopters, flies can hover and move backward. They can even land upside down!

Flies, like almost all insects, have compound eyes. If you look closely, you will see that the eyes have many sides, like a soccer ball. This helps them see movement quickly.

Flies are helpful to nature. Some flies move pollen from one flower to another, which creates fruit and seeds. This is called pollination. Some of the flowers that flies pollinate smell like rotting meat. Not too many other insects are attracted to that smell! Flies also help decompose, or break down, dead plants and animals.


Subtitled, The Curious Kid's Guide to Insects, this first book in a new "Lobster Learners Series" endeavors to change negative attitudes towards many insects by showing the useful roles they play in nature. Following a one-page introduction and Word List, each double page spread describes one order in the insect world. A simple definition of the Latin term (e.g. Diptera means 'two wings'), brief general information, several captioned photos and text box inserts comprise each page. Inserts explain habitat (Where are they?), related species (Country Cousin) and the value to nature and humans (Don't Squash That Bug!). A single page encourages the reader to look for various types of insects in specific habitats. A final page lists Other Creepy Crawlies: spiders, centipedes and sow bugs. The book is advertised as being suited to ages 3-8.

     Insects form a huge topic for young readers to sort out. Categorizing by orders in this book works well as each is explained clearly and simply. Kids who have no trouble getting their tongues and memories around lengthy dinosaur names will have little difficulty with Coleoptera or Lepidoptera. Many of the photo captions are kid-friendly, too: "Leafhoppers can be as short as a sesame seed or as long as a gummy bear." The color-coded inserts identified by cartoon character symbols help kids to zero in on specific facts. A butterfly symbol is used within the text to highlight scientific language. These terms are listed in the Word List. However, most of them are also defined in context. This redundancy and the complexity of the List both in content and appearance (wordy, and set in quite small type so it all fits on one page) make it rather ineffective for this age. Neither Table of Contents nor Index are included.

      The book is filled with fascinating facts and good quality close-up photos. The design feels busy, though, especially where photos overlap. Some captions and explanations tend to be wordy: e.g. "bring a magnifying glass with you so that you can look closer." The text also suffers from imprecise language in spots: readers are directed to "collect an insect in a jar with holes in it so you can take a closer look" and are told "Then [Cicada nymphs] find a vertical surface such as tree bark or a fence to help them molt." Details such as, "Dung beetles are in the scarab beetle family" stray beyond the focus and the designated readership. Such inconsistencies in the writing (or editing) may make the book less clear to preschoolers and perhaps more appropriate for ages 7-9.

      Overall, the book does a credible job of showing kids how insects are beneficial to the natural world. They will learn that termites eat rotten wood in the wild, flies pollinate and help decomposition, cockroaches are expert scavengers and that dragonflies don't bite humans. Observation is stressed rather than collection and handling. There's plenty here to arouse curiosity and open young minds to the insect world around them.


Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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