Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bugs by the Numbers

Facts and Figures for Multiple Types of Bugbeasties
By Sharon Werner & Sarah Forss
$19.99, ages 4-8, 56 pages

Little entomologists will delight in every page of this clever tribute to tiny creatures that crawl and fly, pester and amaze.
The gals behind the enchanting Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types promise a myriad of marvels in this number bug book and deliver -- with lots of giggles.

As with that award-winner, Werner and Forss build creatures from numbers of varying size and fonts, and explore facts though fun graphics and flip-out pages.

"Each bug on these pages / Looks unique and rare, / Not like the insects / You see everywhere," reads a poem in the front fold. "They're made up of numbers: / The ones that you count. / 'Cause when you think bugs, / You think BIG amounts."

Though the book is titled Bugs By Numbers, Werner and Forss let readers know from the start that many of the crawly creatures profiled aren't technically "bugs."

"Real bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs / And spiders are neither (oh, please don't say, 'Ugh')," they write in a poetic foreword, asking readers in a playful way to forgive the wide net.

One look inside and readers won't begrudge them a bit. Every spread is a blast to scour and makes them giddy to see what's coming next: What insect will it be? What number will fill its body? What wild fact will it lead them to?

The first of the 23 bugs profiled is the tight-waisted ant, which spans two pages and is entirely shaped by the numbers 1, 2 and 3 -- because the ant has 3 body parts: "1. a head, 2. a thorax (chest) and 3. an abdomen (belly)."
On the right side of the two-page spread, readers lift a leaf to watch a line of ants march in the shape of a 50. (An ant can lift that many times its body weight.) Then below, they fold down dirt to see ants tunneling up to 20 feet into the ground.

Other curious facts appear at the bottom of the left page. Did you know that ants have two stomachs -- one for their own food and another for food they share with their colony? inquire Werner and Forss, then add with a wink, "Yummy!"

In another spread, a grasshopper is made almost entirely of 20s since the average sized fellow can jump 20 inches -- that's from one side of this book when it laid open to the other, explains an arcing red sentence under its feet.

But look closely and you'll also see numbers 1-20 along its belly to show where grasshoppers breathe. Grasshoppers don't have noses and instead breath through 10 holes on each side of their lower body called "spiracles."

There are so many cool facts it's hard to pick favorites. Did you know that fireflies are more efficient than any light bulb? (98 percent of the energy they use to glow produces light; only 2 percent of it is lost to heat) Or that earthworms can eat jeans?

The creators don't just inform, they amaze with graphic feats. In one spread, threads of a spider web are made entirely of 1s smaller than this type, but look closely. Hidden on a few links of the web are more facts in equally tiny type.

"A lot of spiders make a new web," reads one thread of the web as it loops up to a cross strand before looping down again with: "every day but they don't waste the old one -- they roll it up into a ball and eat it. Mmmm…tasty."

Another page is devoted to numbers made to look like spiders. One shows a big fat 15 with legs, red lips and a red bow-tie to represent the venomous Black Widow; another, a spider shaped like a 6 sits at a spindle spinning silk from six glands.

This is one of those books readers fly through because they can't wait to see it all -- and gets them so charged up that at the end its almost as if they need to catch their breath.

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