From The Columbus Dispatch's Nancy Wilson comes a round-up of children's books that celebrate the creatures who creep, crawl and jump throughout our summer!
The Beetle Book (Houghton Mifflin, 32 pages, $16.99, ages 6 to 10) by Steve Jenkins
Every beetle that crawls in the United States seems to be represented in colorful, scientific drawings and with tiny-print descriptions. Don't miss the larger-than-life illustration of the fierce six-spotted green tiger beetle that "stalks its prey, runs it down and tears it to pieces with its razor-sharp jaws."
Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems (Boyds Mills, 32 pages, $16.95, ages 5 to 9) by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple
Stemple's close-up photos of insects inspired Yolen to produce some clever poems (and change her mind) about creatures that "have never been my favorite," as she acknowledges in an author's note. A sample, the poem Spider to the Poet: "I am the spinner of fables / You a spinner of fibs / Let's make a poem together / About bluebottle flies and high-flown lies / Then put it on the World Wide Web."
Frogs! Strange and Wonderful (Boyds Mills, 32 pages, $16.95, ages 7 to 9) by Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson
In the lively primer, fun facts about frogs - they can eat just about any animal they can gulp down; the goliath frog of western Africa can weigh more than 6 pounds - are interspersed with Henderson's beautiful watercolor illustrations. Most kids probably already know this: Pick up a toad or frog, and it will pee in your hand - as a defense mechanism.
Just Ducks! (Candlewick, 30 pages, $15.99, ages 4 to 8) by Nicola Davies and Salvatore Rubbino
The illustrations and story's setting will remind you of Robert McCloskey's great Make Way for Ducklings, but the handsome book by zoologist Davies is more informational, offering facts about ducks as well as the story of a girl fascinated by them. Rubbino's mixed-media illustrations are quite appealing.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature (Candlewick, 110 pages, $19.99, ages 3 to 7) by Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld
The big book of poems is retro in appearance and size. Not many other children's picture books published these days top 100 pages. Accompanied by a variety of lovely mixed-media illustrations, the poems celebrate many elements of nature: shells, apples, cherry blossoms, lizards, the seasons, wind, honey, compost and more.
Step Gently Out (Candlewick, 26 pages, $15.99, ages 2 to 5) by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder
More up-close and personal photographs of insects can be found in this simple story poem about magical summer discoveries just outside a child's door. The photographs are crystal clear and rich with detail, capturing a dew-covered spider's web, for example, and a honeybee in flight.