Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nasty Bugs

Nasty Bugs

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator:  Will Terry 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Penguin, 2012   ISBN: 978-0803737167

It is true that there are many species of beneficial insects in the world. There are insects that garner our admiration because of their beauty or because they provide us with a vital service, such as pollinating our flowers and trees. Then there are the insects that we sincerely wish were not around. There are the mosquitoes that bite us, the ticks that suck our blood, the lice that itch, and the insects that quiet simply revolt us. This book is about these insects, the ones that we love to hate.

The first poem is about the stink bug. In the big scheme of things, this insect isn’t too bad. After all, it does not “hiss / or sting / or bite.” This insect is an inoffensive looking creature, but it has a secret, a smelly secret that you will find about (and regret) if you are foolish enough to touch it.

Further on in the book we meet a species of insect that is far more troublesome. Here are fleas who feast on animals and humans, making our lives miserable. Not only do they give us nasty bites, but these little pests “drink blood, spread disease.” It is quite easy to see why the author of this poem, Marilyn Singer, says “Can’t we please get rid of fleas?”

Fleas, chiggers, mosquitoes, wasps and other insects bite and sting, but there are also the nasty little creatures who disgust us because of their looks and habits. One of the worst examples of these are maggots. Let’s face it, there is very little to like in these slimy larva who love to eat their way through spoiled and rotten food. Some people feel the same way about cockroaches, the tribe of insects that has managed to survive on Earth for “three hundred million years,” and whose presence in our homes makes us wish that our cave dwelling ancestors had “sprayed the whole / Family tree for pest control.”

Readers who like a little nastiness in their reading material are going to love this collection of poems. The sixteen poems were written by poets such as Alice Schertle, Douglas Florian, and Rebecca Kai Dotlitch. Some of the poems were especially commissioned for this deliciously buggy title.

At the back of the book, Lee Bennett Hopkins provides his readers with further information about the insects mentioned in the book. If you thought the bugs in the poems were nasty before, wait until you read the supplemental information about them!