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Yesterday I found a delightful GIF of a lady beetle spreading its wings and launching into flight. It is slowed down enough so you can see the details and I just had to share it!

via GIPHY

What is going on?

A lady beetle keeps its flapping wings -- which are membranous and flexible -- tucked under the harder top (elytra). To fly, it holds the elytra up out of the way. So cool!

 

(Illustration from Wikimedia)

 

Now, back to my regular programming.

 

Right in time for National Poetry Month (April), we have Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Robert Meganck.

Author Leslie Bulion has a subtly playful approach to spiders.

All spiders are arachnids
But some arachnids
mite not be spiders.

If you like that kind of word play, you are in for a real treat.

Illustrator Robert Meganck also has a subtle sense of humor. For example, in the front endpapers he shows a fly near a spider web. The back endpapers shows the same spider with a small webbed up package. He leaves it up to the reader to figure out what happened to the fly.

Intermingled between poems of different forms -- in spite of the title, not all are haiku -- is detailed information about spiders, from what they eat to how they build webs.

If the text isn't enough, there's extensive back matter as well:

  • Glossary
  • A Few Notes on Poetic Form
  • Spider Identification (scientific names of the spiders in the book)
  • A "Spider Hunt" activity suggestion
  • For Further Study (Books and websites)
  • A cool info-graphic of the relative sizes of all the spiders
  • Identification of the spiders on the cover.

Readers are likely to find something new every time they read the book.

Spi-ku is perfect for budding arachnologists and poets alike. Investigate a copy today!

Related Activity Suggestions:

  1. Visit Leslie Bulion's website to download an awesome teachers guide and folding spider booklet activity.
  2. Read and discuss "Allowables" by Nikki Giovanni (MSU Poetry websitefor example).
  3. Reading Rockets has whole page about National Poetry Month, including interviews with poets and activity suggestions.
  4. Write a spider poem.
  5. See our beginners guide to identifying spiders (previous post)
  6. Check out more children's books about spiders at Science Books for Kids.

Reading age : 8 - 12 years
Publisher : Peachtree Publishing Company; Illustrated edition (March 1, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1682631923
ISBN-13 : 978-1682631928

Disclosure: This book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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Today's featured title, 13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich and illustrated by David Clark, just came out last week and already there's quite a buzz about it. Let's find out why.

This fabulous picture book puts both the S (science) and the M (math) in STEAM. And a bunch of silly A (art), too.

The story starts with a cloud of thirteen different kinds of flies.

Big flies,
small flies,
fat flies,
thinner,
Yum! These flies are someone's dinner.

As they travel through the book, the flies meet one untimely end after another as the reader learns about all the living things that rely on flies for their survival.

13 Ways to Eat a Fly has tidbits for everyone. The youngest readers will enjoy counting down the numbers. Slightly older readers will enjoy the gross and silly aspects, such as the absolutely hilarious chart of the edible parts of a fly along with a graphic listing the nutritional facts. Budding entomologists will soak up all the science, including the common and family names of each of the flies, interesting details about the predators, and an introduction to food chains. Educators will enjoy two pages of suggested books and websites in the back matter, so helpful for digging deeper.

Not sure you really want to read about icky flies? Don't worry, by the time you're done, you will be rooting for them!

Ever wondered how an author gets an idea for a book? You're in luck. This week I talked with author Sue Heavenrich by phone. Be a fly on the wall for our conversation!

You’ve written a book about insects for children. Were you interested in critters when you were young?

When I was a kid, I kept a notebook of organisms - sort of like a "life 
list" birders keep, but with animals and plants that I got to know. I
 loved to make lists: all of the kinds of squirrels found at the Grand
 Canyon; the different kinds of trees at the Girl Scout camp; what the
 black widow spider living in my window ate for breakfast (don't tell my
 mom - she still does not know about that spider!) So I am thinking it's 
not a surprise that I would begin to write a book about flies by making
 a list of flies seen in and around my garden.

That is so cool. Keeping a notebook and making lists are great tools for learning. Where did it take you?

I got my master's degree in biology working on insect behavior studies with Michael Breed at U of CO, Boulder. Two of the papers I published (My name was Susan K. Smith at the time):

  1.  In Animal Behaviour
  2.  In Physiological Entomology

It is fascinating that you studied cockroaches (I’ll have to tell you my cockroach stories some time.) Right now, I’d love to hear more about the garden you mentioned.

I have a vegetable garden. It is not so much about growing food, but it is a place to observe and learn about other living things. Definitely about the woodchucks, chipmunks, and beetles!

A few years ago I got involved with the  Great Sunflower Project, a citizen science study facilitated by Gretchen (LeBuhn). We grew sunflowers and counted the bees and other pollinators that visited. As a result, I got into gardening for bugs.

I grow plants with the aim to attract native insects and my yard has dandelions, violets, buttercups, etc. I enjoy looking closely at the insects that visit. I am especially fond of bumble bees, which are the teddy bears of the bee world.

Once I found an insect that looked like a hornet, but something was not quite right. It had two wings and the antennae looked wrong for a wasp. Turns out it was a fly that mimicked a hornet. That made me start thinking about the diversity of flies, and you guessed it, eventually led to the book.

We are thankful for that fly!
Besides in the garden, where else can we find you?

I blog about science and STEAM books at Archimedes Notebook
(archimedesnotebook.blogspot.com) and folks can visit me at my website www.sueheavenrich.com

Thank you so much for your insights and sharing your interest in flies. Maybe some day we will all have gardens for flies.

Activity Suggestion:

Start a fly or insect notebook like Sue did. This can be a paper notebook or if you are older and have a phone, you can use apps like iNaturalist.

Keep records of the flies you see. Make a list of common and scientific names. Find out more about each type of fly in books or websites like the ones listed in the book.

If you like to draw, add illustrations to your notebooks. Drawing requires close and accurate observations. It is a useful skill. You can strive for scientific accuracy and have fun like David Clark did.

If you have a camera, you might want to take photographs. I keep photographic records of the flies I see around my yard in this blog.

Think flies are bland and boring and only eat garbage? Check these out!

Bottle Flies - Family Calliphoridae (prev. post)

Fun fact:  Bottle flies pollinate specialized carrion flowers like Stapelia (previous post).

Long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae)

Fun fact:  The adult flies are beneficial in the garden because they are predators of other small insects like aphids and leafhoppers, as well as spider mites (previous post).

Crane flies (Tipulidae)

Fun fact:  Although they may superficially look like giant mosquitoes, crane flies in a completely different family. They are fragile insects, not harmful in any way (previous post).

Bee Flies (Bombyliidae)

Fun fact:  Like bees, bee flies are pollinators. They use their long mouthparts to suck up nectar from flowers (previous post).

Hover or Flower Flies (Syrphidae)

Fun fact:  Adult flower flies pollinate flowers and the larvae eat aphids. Win-win!

Featured in the book:  Mediterranean fruit fly (Tephritidae)

(Photograph by Alvesgaspar at Wikimedia)

Mediterranean fruit flies are potentially invasive pests. Some states, particularly California, have extensive monitoring programs. If even a single fly is found, they spring into action to prevent it from taking hold.

Fruit flies (Drosphilidae)

Can you tell this regular fruit fly from the Mediterranean one above? Hint:  Flies in the family Tephritidae are also sometimes called "picture-winged" flies. Let us know the differences you see in the comments.

This family of fruit flies are not in the book, but are important. The study of fruit flies has led to incredible scientific advancements in the fields of genetics and embryology.

Fun fact:  Fruit fly larvae consume fruit that is rotting or fermenting. They eat the fungi/yeasts in decaying fruit as an important source of protein ( Nature article, previous post, previous post with life cycle).

So, do you think flies are cool now?

Reading age : 4 - 8 years
Publisher : Charlesbridge (February 16, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1580898904
ISBN-13 : 978-1580898904

Disclosure: Book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.