Monday, January 6, 2014

Bugs for the Book Lady

I have said many times that perhaps the most gratifying thing about being Googie is the experience of watching the grandkids learn to talk.  I love that delightful process of trial and often-hilarious error it takes for them to master the complicated rules of grammar and syntax and to tame the wild randomness of English idiom.

Watching them acquire a love for books is a close second.  This is why, on a surprise trip out to visit the Kansas foursome a few weeks ago, I disguised myself as the Book Lady.  The Book Lady rings the doorbell of unsuspecting children and, with their mama's foreknowledge, approval, and supervision, tells them she has brought them a bag of books.  They are delighted, and their mama invites the Book Lady in.

The disguise--a cape, sunglasses, and a ball cap--doesn't work long.  Before the Book Lady steps even one foot over the threshold, the six-year-old has figured things out.  "Googie!" Sooby hollers, and I am outed. We all head to the couch and dump out the eight books I checked out from my county library the day before and brought westward with me like some incognito literary pioneer.

Of the eight books, I think we read  four, but with two of those I truly struck pay dirt. We read them again and again over the course of the day, and since then I have been contemplating reasons why those two particular stories struck the collective fancy of children 6, 4, and 3.  Following is a brief review of the first of those; the next blog post will discuss the other one.

First is The Bugliest Bug, a story in rhyme written by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Scott Nash. In it, an unlikely heroine named Damselfly Dilly saves her fellow insects from a bogus "Bugliest Bug" contest advertised by a group of diabolical spiders interested in their six-legged counterparts only for their potential as a tasty lunch.

When Dilly notices that the contest judges, all spiders, appear to have fake wings AND FANGS, she sounds the alarm and rallies the troops.  She goes on to organize the insects into an effective cohort wherein each bug's individual strengths contribute to the group's victory over the evil arachnids.  As a reward for her diligence and leadership--and for saving their lives--Dilly's fellow-insects unanimously bestow upon her the coveted title of "Bugliest Bug."

In addition to the story's delightful appeal as an imaginative, wonderfully-illustrated piece of children's literature, it offers an elementary lesson in entomology.  From it, children take away an awareness of different types of insects (ladybug, praying mantis, stink bug, cicada, glowworm, etc.) as well as a rudimentary understanding of the basic physical differences between insects and arachnids, which, incidentally, becomes the vocabulary word of the day.

Publisher's Weekly has called The Bugliest Bug "a rollicky, tongue-in-cheek entree to the entomological world,"  and the Book Lady heartily concurs.  This perfect selection promises your little ones a boost to the imagination, a delightful earful of rhyme and meter, eye-candy illustrations, a fun science lesson--and a chance to root wholeheartedly for the underbug.

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