Review: Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards


Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards

Little Fly can’t do what the other bugs in the garden can do.  He tries to act just like them, but it doesn’t work out quite right. He can’t wiggle like a worm or jump like a grasshopper. He can’t march in formation like the ants or swing like a spider. He’s hopeless at digging and chewing leaves too. It’s not until some flying insects inspire him to try his wings that he figures out exactly what he’s meant to do – fly!

This very simple picture book works so well. The insect who is doing the movement or action states it with confidence and in their own unique font. Then Fly tries it too but always with a question mark wondering about it. So the book reads aloud well and offers plenty of options for tone and approach as a teacher or librarian. In other words, be just as silly as you would like and it will work well.

One of the huge strengths of this book is its illustrations. From the pop-eyed little fly to the other insects, they are all distinctive and brimming with personality. Sharp-eyed readers and listeners will hints of the next insect before you turn the page, creating a feeling of moving along a path of insects. Make sure to check out the Bug Facts at the end of the book for the names of the insects you meet in the story.

Simple and innately funny, this picture book has a zingy personality all its own. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from digital copy from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The Fly and The Worm by Elise Gravel

fly worm

The Fly by Elise Gravel

The Worm by Elise Gravel

The first and second books in the new Disgusting Critters series of nonfiction picture books, these books take a humorous look at the biology of a specific creature.  The first book deals with flies, specifically the common house fly.  Inside are all sorts of interesting facts like the fly being covered in hair and information on eggs and maggots.  More disgusting aspects are played up, which should appeal to young children, like the diet of flies and how germ filled they are and why.  The second book is about worms and focuses on their unique anatomy, such as having no eyes and no limbs.  There is also a focus on habitat, diet and reproduction.  Throughout both books, humorous asides are offered, making this one of the most playful informational book series around.

Gravel combines both humor and facts in her book.  She keeps the two clearly defined, with the animals themselves making comments that add the funniness to the books.  The facts are presented in large fonts and the design of the book makes the facts clear and well defined.  These books are designed for maximum child appeal and will work well in curriculums or just picked up by a browser in the library.

The art in the books, as you can see by the covers, is cartoonish and cute.  The entire effect is a merry romp alongside these intriguing animals.  I know some people believe that books about science for children should be purely factual, but Gravel’s titles show how well humor and touch of anthropomorphism can work with informational titles.

Information served with plenty of laughs, these science titles will be appreciated by children and teachers.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copies.

Review: Frog and Fly by Jeff Mack

frog and fly

Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories by Jeff Mack

Six very short stories about a frog and a fly are told here.  Done in comic panels, the stories are all simple and quite funny.  In each story, the frog meets a fly and ends up not really making friends but instead making lunch.  Each story is slightly different and filled with little puns.  The frog manages to cleverly lure the fly closer by talking with it, but eventually just slurps that fly right up.  The arc of the first two stories is very similar.  The third brings in ketchup and a burger.  The fourth has different animals shooing the fly away from them, until the frog welcomes the fly closer.  The fifth story has races between the frog and fly that the fly wins over and over again, until the final one.  The sixth story has the frog get his comeuppance much to the glee of the fly.  Slurp!

Mack has tapped right into the sense of humor of preschoolers with these stories.  The running gag of eating the fly makes the final story all the more satisfying with its twist.  This is the sort of book that my two sons would have loved at that age, laughing along with delight.  It’s one that reads aloud very nicely, and even better, gives you the opportunity to work on a fly voice and a frog ribbit.

Mack’s illustrations are simple and colorful.  The lines are crisp and clean, echoing the thickness of the font used for their dialogue.  They reflect the humor of the entire book, with silly grins and a big pink slurping tongue.

Sure to get laughs at preschool story time, this makes a silly addition to any story time on frogs or flies.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

Review: Zig and Wikki in the Cow by Nadja Spiegelman

zig and wikki in the cow

Zig and Wikki in the Cow by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler

This is the second Zig and Wikki book, featuring two little aliens who find their way to Earth.  In this book, the two friends lose their spaceship when they return Zig’s pet fly its native habitat.  On the way, the two discover that flies eat poop, that dung beetles use it as well, and that cows have multiple stomachs.  It’s all a matter of learning things up close and personal, right down to being swallowed by a cow.  This humorous mashup of scientific fact, alien appeal, and comic format makes for an engaging read for young readers.

It is really the blend that works so well here.  The writing is light and funny, combined with scientific facts that are highlighted with photographs.  Readers learn about food cycles, ecology and habitats without even realizing it.  Add in the humorous poop factor and the graphic novel format, and this is one appealing package.

A graphic novel series that is a lot of fun and also informational, this second book is a winner, winner, cow dinner.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

Tiny Little Fly: A Delight of a Book


Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron

British Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has created another delight of a picture book.  Readers follow the adventures of Tiny Little Fly as he buzzes past some impressive animals.  Great Big Elephant tries to catch the fly, but even with all of his tramping and crushing, the fly flies away.  When Tiny Little Fly lands on Great Big Hippo’s ear, the hippo tries to catch him by rolling and squashing.  But the fly flies away.  Even Great Big Tiger, who swoops and snatches at the fly with his pay cannot catch the fly.  Told in a wonderful rhyme with plenty of noise and fun, this book will be right at home in any toddler story time.

Rosen’s verse here is filled with a sense of fun and playfulness.  The repetition in the book gives it a wonderful pace and gait that is a pleasure to read aloud.  Each large animal takes two winks at the fly, then tries in their own way to catch it with plenty of ruckus.  Thanks to the simplicity of the story and the attraction of the large animals, I can see this being made into a felt board story very easily.  It would also convert well into a little play acting with parents or teachers.

Waldron’s illustrations are simple but sophisticated.  They have a mix of timelessness and modernism that is charming.  His use of a natural-feeling background rather than stark white makes for a warm feel throughout the book.  Waldron combines several techniques in these illustrations from ink drawings to paint.  For reading aloud to a group, Waldron’s illustrations work well thanks to their large size.  Additionally, he allows children to guess what the next large animal will be, adding to the pleasure of sharing the book aloud. 

An ideal story time pick, get this one for any insect, tiger, elephant or hippo story time you are planning.  Heck, it’s good enough to use time and again for any reason at all.  A guaranteed hit with the toddler and preschool set.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.