Saturday, October 6, 2007


Florian, Douglas. 1998. Insectlopedia. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152163352

Plot Summary
Each of the twenty-one poems in this book is a mixture of information and humor about a particular insect. The poems are stand alone and follow many forms, but the theme of this collection is insects.

Critical analysis
Douglas Florian is the poet and artist of this clever collection of poetry. He infuses science, art and poetry to interest the reader about insects. There is a table of contents to help the reader find a poem about a particular insect. The illustrations are wonderfully created incorporating the subject of the poem, sometimes the letter that the insect starts with and such details that part of reading the book is reading the pictures. For example, in the poem "The Dragonfly," Florian's drawing shows a reflection of a dragon in the dragonfly's eyes.

The spacing in the poetry indicates movement. In "The Army Ants," the reader sees the marching by the placement of the opening words "left" and "right." My favorite poems are the concrete examples like "The Inchworm." The poem illustrates the subject--an inchworm. In "The Whirligig Beetles" poem, the text is circular imitating the beetle's movement.

Florian infuses humor with his poetry. In "The Praying Mantis," there are puns included to show the insect prays (preys) and swallows "religiously" what it catches. Florian suggests in the poem "The Crickets" that the annoying sound crickets make is really them playing music for free. In "The IO Moth," Florian states that the moth's eyes "ward teachers."

The text is on one side of the book and the illustration is on the opposing side. The page numbers are discreetly on the border of the page in the middle. They are not distracting to the reader but allow for finding a specific poem.

The language Florian uses is simple and employs sound devices that calls for reading out loud. However, the pictures must be shared with the audience. The pictures are part of the experience. In "The Caterpillar," Florian makes "pupa" and "super" rhyme. Some of the words he uses are made up but fit the poem. In "The Daddy Longlegs," poem, Florian asks how the legs are so long, and he uses the phrase "spiderobic exercise" which puts a humorous image in the reader's mind.

I enjoyed the white space that Florian uses in this book because it drew me to the illustrations. As I read the poems, I would examine the art to see how the text showed up in the pictures.

Review excerpts

BULLETIN of the CENTER for CHILDREN'S BOOKS: "While some of the verses scan better than they conceptualize, they're always neat and often quite witty indeed."

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "The silly, imaginative verses about whirligig beetles and waterbugs (almost) match the exquisite pictures in playfulness and wit."

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: "These portraits build on the imaginatively integrated realistic and anthropomorphic images created in the text. There are other books of poetry about insects and lots of collections of humorous verses about animals but none match Insectlopedia."

*Create a classroom bug collection (maybe some alive specimens?) and write poetry that mimics the movement or visual appeal of the bug

*Create a collection of poetry based on another theme, such as reptiles or aquatic animals, and try to infuse scientific information, humor and visual clues with the poem

Other books by Douglas Florian:

Florian, Douglas. Mammalabilia. ISBN 0152050248

Florian, Douglas. Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs. ISBN 0152052488

Florian, Douglas. Beast Feast. ISBN 0152951784

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