“Let’s start with bug books today!” This has been the refrain I’ve heard from my son almost every morning for the past few weeks as we’ve started our schoolwork. I anticipated that insects might be a popular topic of study for him, so it’s been encouraging to see his enthusiasm.
Bugs by the Numbers – by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss
This was one of my son’s favorites from this unit study. He loved the emphasis on numbers and quantifiable facts. There are number-based facts about the insects on each page–from basic facts such as “like many bugs, a house fly has 6 feet” to more obscure ones such as “Mosquitoes draw about 5 microliters of blood with each bite. It would take 1,200,000 mosquito bites to drain the blood of a human.”
The theme of numbers is carried through in the illustrations as well. All of the images of insects in the book are created using numbers. For instance, the design of the page about the butterfly is based on the numbers of the four stages in the butterfly’s development: the eggs are drawn using only the number 1, the larva using the number 2, the pupa using the number 3, and the butterfly using the number 4.There are also flaps to lift on a number of pages, and the pages are quite visually engaging.
Bugs are Insects – by Anne Rockwell
When I started researching books for this unit study, I found myself asking semantic questions. What exactly should I include in this study? When I say the word “bug” I mean insects, but not only insects. I often lump spiders, worms, centipedes, and other “creepy crawlies” into this category as well.
This book provides an excellent introduction to these very questions. It’s a very accessible book, and takes a back-to-basics approach to answering questions such as: What are bugs? Are all bugs insects? Are all insects bugs? The illustrations are beautiful, and this book introduces kids to some of the incredible variety in the insect world, as well as allowing them to enter into the questions of science and taxonomy in a meaningful way.
The Beetle Book – by Steve Jenkins
The opening sentence of this book blew my mind: “Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth… and one of every four will be a beetle.” There’s an incredible amount of variety and beauty in the world of beetles, and Steve Jenkins uses his inimitable illustrations to introduce us to it. He presents a huge range of beetles in this book, and features a noteworthy tidbit or two of information about each one. Each page features a variety of different beetles, and these illustrations are often accompanied by silhouette images that allow us to compare the actual size of the different beetles we’re seeing.
Those Amazing Ants – by Patricia Brennan Demuth
This charming book presents ants in way that is very accessible to young children. It’s very conversational in tone, engaging the reader with questions such as “Did you ever stand near an anthill and watch ants disappear down the little hole?” Facts about ants are related back to the child’s world–“[Ants] can lift ten times their own weight. That’s like a five-year-old child lifting two grown men!” We’re able to look inside of an anthill, observe ants scavenging for food and leaving trails for other ants to follow, and see how the ants care for the newly hatched larva.
ABC Insects – American Museum of Natural History
From aphids to zebra longwing butterflies, this book takes readers on an alphabetical journey through the insect world. The photography is lovely, the selection of insects is diverse, and the tidbit facts are well laid out. There’s not enough information about each insect to be the base of a unit study, but it served as a useful supplemental book.
A Ladybug’s Life and A Pill Bug’s Life – by John Himmelman
As with the other books in this lovely series, these two books examine the life cycles of the ladybug and the pill bug from the perspective of the insects themselves. We observe a single insect from the moment she is born through finding food, hibernation, mating, laying eggs, and even interacting with humans. The illustrations are gentle yet detailed, and there isn’t too much text per page. So many of the books I found presented a variety of different insects–I found these books helpful in providing a narrower focus on a single insect and its life cycle.
Guess What: Lanky Legs and Guess What: Quick and Quiet – by Felicia Macheske
These two books belong to a lovely series that was just recently published. The photography in them is magnificent. Each book focuses on a different animal (these two present a praying mantis and a dragonfly), and each page shows a close up photograph of a different part of the animal’s body with a “clue” as to the animal’s identity. The identity of the animal isn’t revealed until the last page. There isn’t much text per page, and these books could definitely be used with toddlers and pre-schoolers, and my 5-year-old found them to be quite engaging too.