Friday, August 2, 2013

Insects Part II

Sounds of summer include the songs from ice cream truck, splashing in pools, and as Amy noted in the last post, the buzzing of insects all around. So continuing with that theme, the first book is one that she did not need, as she was surrounded by insects without even trying.

  Insect detective by Steve Voake is a  2010 Junior Library Guild selection which offers primary and early elementary students information about not only insects and their life cycles but also where to look for them. I also like that the text distinguishes between insects and non-insects that kids might find when they are detectives - such as spiders, centipedes and slugs -  by indicating the number of legs for an insect (6). Dual-layer text provides additional information for kids who want to go beyond the main narrative. The watercolor and ink illustrations are just cartoony enough to be engaging without leading to misconceptions. The book ends with a spread entitled "Be an insect detective" with suggestions for capturing insects, such as a beetle trap design.

A familiar sound of summer is the chirping of crickets. A suggestion for a book about these fascinating creatures is from the "Let's Read and Find Out" series. Unlike insects we sometimes consider to be pesky (yet are still such an integral part of the ecosystem), crickets are symbols of good luck in some cultures and are one of the few insects purposefully kept as pets. Let's just not dwell here on the fact that they are also utilized to keep some pets alive, such as retiles and frogs.  Chirping crickets by Melvin Berget is an older book (1998) but still a great resource. As you can see from the cover, the illustrations are more like technical drawings, with some containing labels for specific body parts such as the back and front wings. The cricket's life cycle is depicted with both text and pictures, including how they molt during their nymph stage. This makes for a great comparison with insects such as butterflies for a compare/contrast opportunity. The final page spread includes suggestions for keeping a pet cricket (just for a day) and ways to use cricket chirps to find the approximate temperature. A "Find out more" describes how to make a model of a cricket and a "Do you know?" game about cricket and insect facts.

Finally, although I am not a huge fan of books with anthropomorphic depictions, I'll end here with A cricket in Times Square by George Seldon. This book won a Newbery Award way back in 1961, and yes, the animals do talk, but there is still a bit of contextual vocabulary and accurate information about insects. For example, Chester Cricket is a male who chirps (which is correct -- females do not) and even the word "entomologist" is used in context. There are so many ways to use this book in a cross-curricular fashion! The cultural significance of crickets is described when Mario looks for a cricket cage in Chinatown; additionally, the contrast between the environments of New York City and Connecticut, from where Chester arrived, easily links with geography and habitats. Tie-ins with music are also easy to make with the names of some of the pieces Chester plays. And taking a minute to step back from always having to learn from text, it's just a good book to read for enjoyment! The sounds of summer will be fading soon, and while I won't miss that buzz of mosquitoes, I will definitely miss the music of the crickets.

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