Exquisite Entomology

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through a Looking Glass,” a gnat asks a little girl named Alice, “What sort of insects do you rejoice in where you come from?” “I don’t REJOICE in insects at all,” Alice explained, “because I’m rather afraid of them — at least the large kinds.”

For the most part, like Alice, we do not “rejoice” in insects in the United States, much to the dismay of entomologists like Dr. Dino Martins, author of “You Can Be An Entomologist!” In this colorful overview, Dr. Martins speaks directly to kids, explaining why entomologists study bugs and how bugs are helpful.

"You Can Be An Entomologist!" by Dr. Martins

Dr. Martins says that all we need to be an “insect watcher” is curiosity and patience. But what if the thought of watching bugs is scary?

Ruby and the Itsy-Bitsy Icky Bug” is an excellent book to read to warm up bug-reluctant readers. One day while stuck in time out, Ruby discovers a bug on her window. When the bug won’t fly away, and they are forced to spend more time together, Ruby slowly discovers that the bug maybe isn’t so icky after all.

"Ruby and the Itsy Bitsy Icky Bug" by Allison Wortcha

I read so many interesting and engaging books about bugs that by the time I got to “Bonkers About Beetles,” I was already bonkers about beetles, which is a good thing, because the 400,000 kinds of beetles are pretty much everywhere, making up 25% of the animal species on our planet. The text is highly informative, covering aspects of the beetles’ life cycle, anatomy and defensive strategies against predators. But it is the beauty of the illustrations in this book — and of beetles more broadly — that won me over.

After all of this beetle-mania, I was not surprised to find out that Japanese children love beetles and keep them as pets. In addition to beetles, dragonflies, fireflies and cicadas are among the many sacred bugs in Japan, where insects feature prominently in popular culture and have for centuries. This cultural tradition is reflected in the beautiful story of Natsumi and Jill in “Natsumi’s Song of Summer.”  When Natsumi’s cousin Jill comes to Japan for a visit from the United States, Natsumi worries about how Jill will feel about the cicadas, which are considered very special and significant in Japan for their songs and their connection with summer.

Spread from "Bonkers About Beetles"

"Natsumi’s Song of Summer" by Robert Paul Weston

“Curiouser and curiouser!” famously rejoiced Alice in Through the Looking Glass. Inspire more curiosity in your little one by picking up one of the bug books on this list or plan to attend an upcoming event on Monday, March 27th featuring author and naturalist Lorie Hetrick-Volenberg, aka Lena Lichenpold. She will do a reading from her illustrated book “Gramelda the Grasshopper: The Story of How the Lichen Grasshopper Came To Be,” share some grasshopper facts and answer questions (ages 6 and up).