LONGLIST REVIEW: The Big Book of Bugs

Within the pages of this book the reader will discover an orchestra of whirring, buzzing, and chirping bugs; creepy crawlies that bite and sting, scuttle and fly; tiny creatures with kaleidoscope wings, armored bodies or spiraled shells. The marvels of the Bug World are revealed through a perfect mix of an expert voice and enchanting illustrations.

‘The Big Book of Bug’ begins by sharing which creepy crawlies scientists would class as ‘a bug’ and by explaining the terms ‘exoskeleton’ and ‘invertebrate’. Before the reader gets too inspired by the contents of this book and embarks on a bug hunting adventure, there is a useful ‘Bug Spotting’ section which encourages any budding Bug Expert to treat these little beasts gently and with respect, allowing Bug and Spotter to keep safe. Armed with this knowledge, the rest of the book takes the reader on a whirl-wind tour of all things ‘buggish.’

Following the ‘Bug Spotting’ section of the book is a page to help the reader to understand the different types of bug: insects, spiders, worms, snails and slugs, centipedes… how to identify the difference between each bug family and the names scientists use for them. Each of the families is then broken down and explored in greater detail: from ladybirds and butterflies to ants, bees, stick insects and spiders. Included within this are some lesser known bugs (to us in the UK) such as termites and the praying mantis as well as wonderful round-up pages including a host of ‘Pond Bugs’ and Night-time Bugs’ The final sections are jam packed with facts about how bugs eat, have babies, move and much, much more.

Throughout the books, readers are encouraged to look carefully at illustrations with special ‘spotting’ tasks. As well as challenges on each page there is a challenge that runs throughout the book. Such observation skills will be vital for any intrepid bug spotter as they begin to put their new skills and knowledge into practice, but also helps to engage younger or more reluctant readers. Once you begin to scour the pages for that infamous fly, you can’t help but engage with the other details within the illustrations and the text itself.

This beautiful non-fiction text may not look like the traditional information books, but its layout and key parts stay true to the genre and also make it very user friendly. The book includes both a contents and index, making it easy to find specific information. At the back of the book there is also a glossary style section that explains the scientific terms that may elude some children.

As well as being able to be used for research purposes, ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ could be a spring board for other class work. The text on each page is carefully selected to capture interest whist not being overwhelming. It provides a ‘taster’ to the topic, encouraging the reader to find out more. The simple yet logical layout would be the perfect starting point to writing a non-chronological report. Each double page would represent the bones of a paragraph, moving from the introductory sections to specific bugs and specific aspects of bugs. I especially like the section that looks at what insects do for us. This would make an interesting look at how insects impact human life from the humble bumble bee, and its crucial involvement in the pollination of plants to the mosquito, whose transmission of malaria has devastating consequences in some parts of the world. Bugs – are they heroes or villains? This could extend beyond the direct impact of bugs on human life to look at technology, medicine and engineering that has been inspired by the inspired by the skills of creepy crawlies. In addition, children could explore the super powers of bugs – extreme strength, astounding feats of endurance and unbelievable ‘hoppability’ to name but a few!

Each double page of this beautiful book is laced with exquisite and enchanting illustrations with gentle colour which bring the bug world to life. The creatures which adorn the pages have an almost magical quality and bring humour, action and quirky characters that work in perfect harmony with the simple, factual details. ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ is a real treasure of non-fiction and will captivate children, capturing their imagination and encouraging them to discover more about these fascinating mini-beasts.

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer (illustrator) and  Barbara Taylor (Bug Expert)

Thames and Hudson      ISBN: 978-0500650677