Here are two things I like in a book: voice and choice. By voice, I am referring to visible authors who speak directly to me, telling me this and that like we are buddies. And choice means authors who leave some decision making up to me. Both of these ideas come together in Bugged: How Insects Changed History, written by Sarah Albee and illustrated by Robert Leighton. But … there’s much more than voice and choice here. This book is funny! It’s gross! It’s history! It’s loaded with graphics! (my current obsession). Wow!
Using this book, you might want to address the topics of voice and choice with young readers. This author really has a strong voice. On page 1 she hooked me with this preview of what was to come:
This book is about how insects have changed human history, for better or worse. We’re going to read about some of the most dangerous, coolest, and grossest bugs on the planet. And we’re going to read about how they contributed to some of the most interesting, deadly, and shocking episodes in human history.
And here’s what she said about choice on page 3:
If you don’t want to be grossed out, or you are easily scared, you should probably stop reading now and go check out a nice book about butterflies or something.
She has even labeled the grossest information items as TMI? —Too Much Information? —so that squeamish readers can skip them. How considerate is that!
Now in addition to all of this, this book would be great to use as a mentor text. If you and your students keep a sharp eye on this book, here are a few things you will notice:
· Fantastic Facts: Here’s a great one: “For every pound of us, there are three hundred pounds of insects” (p. 7).
· Subheadings with Amusing Puns . Here are a few:
o Crawler ID
o Survival of the Flittest
o East Meets Pest
· Repetitive Features: Throughout the book you will find features like the following:
o TMI? (Too Much Information?)
o Insect Aside (More information about an insect)
o You Don’t Say (Relevant Quotes)
· Glossary: Not only are words clearly explained, but here you will find an example of how to explain words that are easily confused. In this case, there is an explanation of the differences between contagious and infectious.
· Notes on Sources: Clearly written source notes tell where the information in each chapter comes from. These notes are excellent models for students to use, and the print size is just right—not too small.
I am sure you will find a lot more to like. You will also learn some science and history. What a gift for the end of the school year. Don’t miss this book.