Helen Milroy: Backyard Bugs

Illustrated by the author

Published by Fremantle Press, WA, 2021

Helen Milroy is a First Nations artist and illustrator, born in Perth and a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Helen has dedicated this picture book to her brother David, in remembrance of all those times when they were children, finding bugs together in the wide outdoors.

I don’t remember looking for insects and bugs in my childhood, but I do remember being stung by bees many times and my mother using toothpaste to soothe the painful wound. We saw lots of bull ants in the red soil of my grandfather’s farm in Monbulk and heavy, iridescent beetles winging their way to shade under the chestnut trees.

When I am out in the garden today, I’m happy to find a ladybug. They are feather light, small and delicate, unique in colour and the number of dots they carry on their backs. Sometimes I see praying mantises too, swaying hypnotically, until they pounce, faster than you can imagine, upon an unsuspecting fly. Some spider webs are engineering marvels, and make you think of strands of pearls on dewy mornings.

This picture book is a wonderful introduction to the world of insects and bugs for very young children. You could walk out the back door and discover all of them in your backyard. Ants marching, dragonflies flitting, worms wriggling, spiders hanging, snails slipping and sliding, crickets chirping and ladybirds landing upon your sleeve. Each insect has its own double page spread, simple rhyme, and is illustrated using bright and vibrant colours nestled within stunning indigenous designs.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature insects and bugs:

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Bugs Everywhere by Lily Murray Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Bug Bear by Patricia Hegarty Illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Peep Inside Bug Homes
by Anna Milbourne
Illustrated by Simona Dimitri

Beehive by Jorey Hurley

The Spider and the Fly
by Mary Botham Howitt
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

Caterpillar and Bean
by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Flutter by, Butterfly
by Petr Horacek

I Love Bugs by Emma Dodd

What the Ladybird Heard
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Superworm by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar
by Julian Donaldson
Illustrated by Yuval Zommer

A Butterfly is Patient
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

Be Nice to Spiders
by Margaret Bloy Graham

Ten Little Caterpillars
by Bill Martin Jr.
Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Caterpillar Butterfly
by Vivian French
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Yucky Worms by Vivian French Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar
by Clare Jarrett

Alpha Bugs by David A. Carter

How Many Bugs in a Box?
by David A. Carter

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle

The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle
by Eric Carle

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle

Philip Bunting: The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants

Illustrated by the author

Published by Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia Pty Ltd, 2020

Ants are everywhere. I see them at home, in my letterbox, under pot plants, gathering around sand mounds in the cracks of concrete. I notice that they are more active just before rain. I am annoyed when they come inside my pantry and find the honey jar. But apart from that, I have not given the humble ant much thought. That is, until now. And I have Philip Bunting to thank for it. Did you know that ants can teach us about ourselves, our communities and our planet?

According to Philip Bunting, ants love family, recycling, micronaps and helping other ants, they communicate using pheromones, the smelly alphabet of the ant world, and they know what their role is when they are born. Their “superpower” is  to live and work cooperatively and harmoniously with every other ant in the colony. While most of us hope to leave this world behind in better shape than when we arrived, Philip Bunting assures us that the humble ant can help us figure out how to do that. When you think about it, ant colonies are masterpieces of engineering, community and collaboration….and it’s all happening in our backyards!

The illustrations in this picture book are uncomplicated, use a limited colour palette and are sprinkled with humor. Philip lives in Queensland, although he is originally from the English Lake District and sometimes teams up with his wife Laura to produce picture books.

I highly recommend it for children 4-8 years old. Here are more of my favourite picture books by Philip Bunting:

Mopoke by Philip Bunting
Koalas Eat Gum Leaves
by Philip Bunting
Kookaburras Love to Laugh
by Philip Bunting
How Did I Get Here?
by Philip Bunting
Another Book About Bears by
Laura and Philip Bunting

Jorey Hurley: Beehive

Illustrated by the author

See the source image

Published by A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020

Using only 15 words, Jorey Hurley explores the complex world of bees and the process they go through to make beehives and honey. Those precise words accompany uncomplicated and informative art to help us understand their meaning. I love books that use sparse text. It gives the reader the opportunity to use their own words and ask questions about what they can see on the page, how it links to the previous page and where the story might be going next.  A conversation can begin and very soon, a young reader or listener can develop comprehension skills, narrative skills and imaginative empathy, without even being conscious of it. A story with few words can also be used for children of different ages. Younger children can appreciate it for its simplicity, brevity and colourful imagery.  Older children can ask questions and find more detailed answers at the end of the story in the author’s note, which adds depth of knowledge to the single word chosen for each double page spread. The limited colour palette contributes to the feeling of calmness too, there is no rushing here, just time to absorb the creativity and importance of bees in our gardens, in the food we eat and in our environment.

Jorey Hurley is a talented artist who sells her own prints, paintings and stationery. I can highly recommend this picture book for children aged between 2-8 years. Here are more of my favorites:

Nest by Jorey Hurley
Hop by Jorey Hurley
Ribbit by Jorey Hurley
Fetch by Jorey Hurley