Category Archives: Creepy Crawlies

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar by Lois Wickstrom

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Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion, picture e-book, 38 pages, published by Look Under Rocks/Gripper Products in 2017.

Loretta watches the masses of butterflies in the milkweed meadow near her home. When she goes to investigate, she finds tiny eggs stuck to the underside of the leaves. Over the following weeks, Loretta watches as an egg hatches, and a caterpillar grows, readying itself to become a butterfly.

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction. The story follows Loretta as she witnesses the life-cycle of a caterpillar from egg through to Monarch Butterfly. The process is interesting, and has been well explained and illustrated throughout the story. I laughed when Loretta taped the leaf back to the plant! And I liked the way that the possible predators of the caterpillar were introduced.

There is further information about the annual Monarch butterfly migration, how to obtain milkweed seeds and how to determine the sex of Monarch butterflies. This extra section was quite interesting and informative.

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is a lovely way to introduce children to the butterfly lifecycle, and is suitable for primary aged children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom

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beeslorettaBees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion, picture e-book, 34 pages, published in 2016.

While bringing in wood from the woodpile during winter, Loretta finds a leafcutter bee’s nest. She puts the nest back in the woodpile and watches it to see what happens when spring arrives.

Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet blends facts and fiction into a delightful and educational picture book. Information about leafcutter bees is integrated subtlety; the kids won’t even know they are learning about nature! The story is easy to read and the text is clear. Quaint illustrations feature throughout the book.

At the end of the book there are instructions for making a home for solitary bees, such as the leafcutter, to encourage them into your garden. This looks like an easy and fun activity for kids, as well as something that will help your garden flourish.

Suitable for primary school children, Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet makes for lovely shared reading time.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Scream: The Spider Army by Jack Heath

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IMG_4946Scream: The Spider Army by Jack Heath, paperback novel, 139 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.

Yvette lives in Axe Falls, a town where some very unusual things have been happening. A recent earthquake has left part of the high school damaged, but the kids still have to attend classes. During a food-tech class, Yvette sees a spider, but it is no ordinary spider, this one has a vivid blue streak down its back. Everyone in town has heard rumours of these blue-back spiders, rumours rife with mystery, disappearances, and death. Yvette sees more blue-back spiders, and the medical centre begins to be inundated with spider-bite victims, will Axe Falls survive the spiders?

Scream: The Spider Army is the second book in the Scream series. I’ve always thought these sort of books are best read after dark, and by torchlight, if possible, to give the maximum creepiness effect. Reading this book reminded me of nights curled up reading Goosebumps books as a child. The Spider Army didn’t disappoint in spine tingling scariness. The blue-back spiders are seriously creepy, and evil, especially the spider queen. Having suffered a couple of spider bites myself, I chose to read this book with the light fully blazing!

The story is well written, fast paced and exciting. It had all the right elements of scary fantasy for kids. I finished reading it very quickly, as did my eight year old daughter. She loved it and immediately moved on to one of the other books in the series, telling me that “Jack Heath is now my favourite author!”. I can see a lot of Scream books in our future.

All of the characters were described with enough detail to picture them clearly, and the reader was able to get to know Yvette and her brother Josh a bit more deeply. I really liked Yvette, her courage, and ingenuity, and the way she wanted to help and protect her brother and friends. All of the school staff that were mentioned seem very odd, and mildly disturbing. A school caretaker like Mr Mortimer would have been scary enough, without a plague of strange blue backed spiders as well!

Scream: The Spider Army is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. Though older children may also enjoy it, it is probably a bit too scary for younger readers. As an adult, it didn’t have quite the goosebumps inducing quality that it did for my third grader, but I still enjoyed the story a lot. I will be reading more in the Scream series.

Wild Discoveries Wacky New Animals by Heather L. Montgomery

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IMG_3949Wild Discoveries Wacky New Animals by Heather L. Montgomery, paperback non-fiction, published by Scholastic Inc. in 2013.

There are still millions of undiscovered species all over the world. This book showcases just a few of the most interesting creatures discovered recently, including a leech with large teeth, a frog with translucent skin and green bones, a blue earthworm, a tiny seahorse and a stick insect as long as your arm!

Wild Discoveries Wacky New Animals is an interesting read. Each page contains plenty of facts about each creature, including its scientific name, size, role and where it was discovered. There are also plenty of colour photographs depicting the animals and their various traits. There is a glossary of terms at the back of the book and a small section on kids discovering new animals.

An enticing non-fiction book for primary school children, Wild Discoveries Wacky New Animals would appeal to nature and animal lovers along with those interested in more unusual (or gross) fare. I cannot un-see the “snot flower” or the Atewa Hooded Spider, but I can refocus on the cute little Siau Island Tarsier! My third grader found this book fascinating, and is now looking into more wacky and strange animals.

Butterfly Card

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IMG_3849A simple card that the kids can make quickly and easily.

Tissue paper set of wings.

Tissue paper set of wings.

We started with a plain red card. A chose a couple of tissue paper circles to use for her butterfly wings, which were pink and orange. Each circle was scrunched into the centre to form a bow shape. Rectangles or squares of tissue paper would have made good wings too. I helped A to glue the scrunched up piece of the wings onto the front of the card, then we left it to dry.

Drying butterfly wings.

Drying butterfly wings.

A drew the bodies and antennae of her butterflies on once the wings were dry. She used a heavy black marker for this. She also did some drawings inside the card using metallic markers and wrote her birthday message.

 

Explorers: Insects and Minibeasts by Jinny Johnson

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IMG_2741Explorers: Insects and Minibeasts by Jinny Johnson, paperback non-fiction, 31 pages, first published by Kingfisher in 2011, this edition published by Kingfisher in 2014.

This is another title in the Kingfisher Explorers series of non-fiction for children. The information is pitched well for preschoolers and primary school children, with full colour illustrations and photography throughout.

The layout is simple and the facts interesting. There is lots to learn about bugs and creepy crawlies in this book. It looks at life cycles, insect homes, diets and water creatures. My preschooler particularly liked the pages on camouflage, and defense. She liked the thorn bugs.

As I read through Explorers: Insects and Minibeasts with my preschooler I saw plenty of insects that were new to me, and I learnt right along with her. It’s nice to find non-fiction books that my kids enjoy and that provide us all with opportunities for learning.

 

Slater Bugs

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Every time we move something in the yard dozens of little slater bugs make a run for it. These little creatures are covered in what appears to be armour and roll up into tight little balls when they feel threatened. This defensive mechanism is the inspiration for the other common name for these bugs; roly-poly bugs. In fact they are not bugs at all, but a type of crustacean. I believe they are also known by some other names such as woodlice and pill bugs.  A and L are fascinated by slater bugs, as was I as a child.

One evening A found a little slater bug on our driveway, she rescued it and called it Little Champ. She asked if she could keep it. I was on the verge of suggesting she place it back in the garden, but what came out of my mouth was actually “Sure, let’s find a container.” Now I didn’t know anything about keeping a slater bug, so I turned to my friend, the internet, for more information.

I found the following pages helpful in setting up our slater bug enclosure:

Dirt in the tank.

Dirt in the tank.

Leaf litter.

Leaf litter.

We had an old plastic aquarium that we used to use for mice. We cleaned, rinsed and dried it, before placing some dirt from our garden into the bottom of it. We took dirt from an area where we found slaters so that we knew it would be okay for them. A placed Little Champ into the tank, and then the kids went out to find more slaters. They brought in around a dozen or so and placed them in with Little Champ.

A slater happy in the leaf litter.

A slater happy in the leaf litter.

Slaters like to be in places where they can hide and it is damp. We placed dry leaf litter on top of the dirt, and used a spray bottle to moisten the contents. The kids added some fresh cherry tree leaves, twigs and dried grass for the slaters to climb and hide amongst.

I occasionally pull out the old leaf litter and refresh it, and I remove anything that looks like it might be becoming mouldy, but I don’t need to clean out the tank completely. We keep the enclosure moist, but not too wet and we feed them scraps from the table, such as lettuce leaves, snow peas, carrot peel, and bits of fruit. I have found that they like snow peas and beans best.

Exploring the cherry tree leaves.

Exploring the cherry tree leaves.

The slaters must be happy in their new home because they have been breeding. We now have dozens of tiny white babies swarming around the tank. It is amazing to see something so small yet so much like their parents! I think we will have to transfer them to a bigger tank soon.

We love watching the slaters scurry around their tank, they are very interesting! Slaters are extremely easy to care for and very quiet. They make excellent, cheap pets for children, that will provide hours of entertainment.

Slaters in the hand.

Slaters in the hand.

 

 

 

Freaky Phobias by Joel Levy

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IMG_2519Freaky Phobias by Joel Levy, paperback non-fiction, 80 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2011.

This book is a fascinating insight into a range of phobias. It covers the most common ones, such as arachnophobia and claustrophobia, alongside some extremely unusual phobias. I never knew there was a word for the fear of otters or knees or kissing, but there is! And there are many other phobias that I had never considered, but discovered in Freaky Phobias.

Freaky Phobias is an informative and interesting book for primary aged children. I learnt quite a lot whilst reading Freaky Phobias, as did my second grader. It had a good depth of information for children, and plenty of fun facts to engage the reader. The photography depicted all of the terrors contained within the book with such clarity that my second grader wanted to skip some of the pages because she felt anxious.

Freaky Phobias contains an A-Z of Phobias, providing the names and descriptions of quite a few phobias. I think this glossary could have been enhanced by including the phonetic spelling of the names, as some of them are quite long and complicated words, which I had difficulty pronouncing.

This is quite a good non-fiction title for young learners (and big ones too!)

 

Paper Bowl Ladybird

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The kids are very excited by bugs at the moment, and they think ladybirds are particularly nice. They made a ladybird each from a paper bowl.

Painting.

Painting.

The faded colour of the painted bowls.

The faded colour of the painted bowls.

They started by painting their upside-down bowls with red paint. The tube stated “Rockin’ Red”, but it looked far more pink on the bowl. We did three coats of red paint on each bowl, but it still looked pinkish and thin. It’s a new tube of paint, and I’m quite disappointed in it, I was hoping for a more vibrant red for our ladybirds. No matter though, the kids still liked the colour!

Gluing on spots.

Gluing on spots.

I cut out the heads from some black foam, and the kids glued them onto the ladybirds’ bodies. They stuck on eye stickers, and added a curled black pipe cleaner for antennae. They also glued on lots of black paper dots that I had cut out earlier.

Sticking on the legs.

Sticking on the legs.

Six legs per ladybird made from black pipe cleaners, and sticky taped to the underside of the bowl, and they were finished. The kids are very proud of their new ladybird friends.

A's ladybird.

A’s ladybird.

L's ladybird.

L’s ladybird.

 

Yoo-Hoo, Ladybird! by Mem Fox and Laura Ljungkvist

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IMG_1189Yoo-Hoo, Ladybird! by Mem Fox and illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2013.

This cute little ladybird just loves to hide. She is hiding somewhere in each picture, can you spot her?

An engaging book for young readers, it involves the child by encouraging them to find the ladybird in each picture. I like that the pages aren’t so packed with items that the ladybird is too hard to find, which makes it perfect for preschoolers. The illustrations are simple, yet unique, with the ladybird hiding among an interesting array of objects. These objects were also fun to spot and name. The story is simple with rhyming text, and my preschooler loved joining in to call ‘Yoo-hoo, Ladybird!’ We really enjoyed this book, and I think it will quickly become a favourite with my preschooler.