This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poetry 5663 Insectlopedia

Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian

cover image retrieved 2/10/13 from

Florian, Douglas. Insectlopedia. [S.l.]: Harcourt Children, Inc, 1998.

Critical Analysis
Who could immortalize bugs, creepy crawlers, and arachnids in words that make them appealing? Douglas Florian, that’s who! Insectlopedia manages to shed enticing light on insects that have been much maligned in most literature. Rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, and imagery combine in a fun romp through the world of bugs, drawing in the reader like a moth to a flame.

Word selection by Florian is one of the highlights of each poem. He masterfully blends choice words with captivating rhythm and rhyme to catch hold of the reader’s imagination. Consider these lines from “The Daddy Longlegs”:
O Daddy
Daddy O
How’d you get
Those legs to grow
So very long
And lean in size?
From spiderobic

Getting a spider to appear cool is a feat Florian accomplishes, leaving a smile on the reader’s face and in her heart. The sound of the words as they are strung together and the figurative language in each poem leave the reader wanting more.

Florian has a way of looking at many of the insects featured in the book in an unexpected manner. The dragonfly is described as “the demon of skies,” rather than its traditional countenance as an angel of the bug world. The giant water bug is cast as a loving but unappreciated father, “…but does he ever get a card or gift for Father’s Day?” The often maligned cricket is portrayed as an expert musician who offers his music for free. The opposing views of these insects gives the reader the opportunity to look at all insects through different lenses.

The title of each poem is the name of the insect. All are listed in the table of contents. Poems are written in a variety of styles. “The Inchworm,” “The Whirligig Beetles,” and “The Termites” are written in concrete poetry. Offset text provides emphasis in “The Locusts” and  “The Army Ants,” as does bolded text in “The Praying Mantis” and lightened text in “The Locusts.” The variety of presentations keeps the book as fresh and unpredictable as the insect subjects.

Florian is also an acclaimed artist, and the original artwork accompanying each poem supplies a new dimension to the book. He is a self-described abstract artist. Some paintings having a cubist touch, such as the illustration for “The Inchworm.” Many others have lettering placed strategically around the picture, connecting to the poem, such as “The Weevils” and “The Treehoppers.” Humorous details appear in many illustrations, such as tiny vials of blood with the blood types labeled on the picture with “The Mosquitoes.” All of the artwork extends the sensory experience of the poetry.

Insectlopedia is an interesting, original look at commonplace menaces. Florian creates fun and frivolity in unexpected ways. Readers of all ages will enjoy this collection, even though it is found most often in elementary libraries. It is a wonderful choice for everyone from reluctant readers to seasoned poetry lovers.

Book Reviews
Carolyn Phelan (Booklist, March 15, 1998 (Vol. 94, No. 14))
Florian, the author/illustrator of beast feast (1994) and on the wing (1996), now presents a witty collection of short poems about insects and spiders. The clever artwork, deftly constructed, and the entertaining collection of insect and arachnid verse it illustrates will delight readers. Category: Middle Readers. Gr. 3-5. Starred Review.

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July/August 1998 (Vol. 51, No. 11))
In his elegant and cleanly formatted volumes, Florian has versified on behalf of mammals (beast feast, BCCB 7/94), birds (On the Wing, 4/96), and fish (In the Swim, 5/97), and he now turns his attention to the world of insects (as well as their common-law cousins, the arachnids). Those who have relished the other poetic bestiaries will want to buzz on over to this one. Review Code: R -- Recommended.

Best Book lists
Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Best Books, 1998 ; Parents Magazine; United States
Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, March 15, 1998 ; American Library Association; United States
Books to Read Aloud to Children of All Ages, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Capitol Choices, 1998 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Choices, 1999 ; International Reading Association; United States
Children's Literature Choice List, 1999 ; Children's Literature; United States
Keep Smiling!, 2001 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 1998 ; IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1999 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Notable Children's Books, 1999 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 1998 ; Cahners; United States
Reading Magic Award, 1998 ; Parenting; United States
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education; California
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, April 1998 ; Cahners; United States

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 1999 Winner Special Subjects United States
Beehive Award, 2002 Winner Poetry Book Utah

Poetry Break!
Spotlight Poem
The Army Ants

                                                                        We’re army ants.
                                                                        We swarm.
                                                                                    We fight.
                                                                        We have no home.
                                                                        We roam.
                                                                        We race.
                                                                        You’re lucky if
                                                                        We miss your place.

Learning Extensions
·      Introducing the poem: Have students line up, preferably in a double column format. Tell them they will practice marching around the room. Begin the procession, emphasizing the rhythm of marching. After marching partway around the room, begin the chant, “left, right, left, right,” encouraging students to chant with you.
·      After going around the room once or twice, have students stop and drop, like good little soldiers. Ask them to share observations about their marching experience.
·      Inform students that you will now share the poem “The Army Ants” with them. Tell them to listen for action words that tell what the ants do. Read the poem orally, emphasizing the marching cadence and action verbs.
·      Ask students to share the actions they heard in the poem. Students will also describe how it is that ants perform these actions, and how they relate to a human soldier.
·      Extension: This poem is terrific for choral reading. Give each student a copy of the poem and read it chorally while seated. Then, have students return to their double column marching lines with their copies of the poem. Students will read the poem chorally, marching when called for in the poem and acting out the other motions in the poem.

Other Books by Douglas Florian:
Douglas Florian’s website:
Douglas Florian’s blog:

Shiver Me Timbers!
Poem Runs: Baseball Poems
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
zoo's who
bow wow meow meow
in the swim
lizards, frogs, and polliwogs
beast feast
Winter Eyes

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