Lots of sweetsie stories about animals line the bookstore shelves, but part of the fun of nature books lies in looking at the icky, creepy offerings that Mother Nature lays out for us. From "square pill-shaped poop" of pill bugs to pits of writhing snakes to the wasp who grows up inside a ladybug and eats its way out, nature books can give a curious child a glimpse of a teeming world at a safe distance.
That wasp factoid comes from Starting Life: Ladybug, written by Claire Llewellyn and illustrated in a colorful, photo-realistic style by Simon Mendez. The book is all about the life cycle of a ladybug. Having read many books about the cute insect, we appreciated the egg-larva-pupa story and the inclusion of the dark side of the ladybug's existence. Very informative and easy to read (with adult help), with enough ick factor to spice things up, Starting Life: Ladybug made us curious to look for more in NorthWord Press's "Starting Life" series, which also includes Butterfly, Crocodile, Duck, Frog, and Tree.
The poop talk and snake stuff referred to in the first paragraph come from I'm a Pill Bug and A Gathering of Garter Snakes, respectively, both of which I reviewed in the recent issue of the online kid-lit magazine The Edge of the Forest. (Click on "Picture Books.")
Starting Life: Ladybug. NorthWord Press, 2004. ISBN: 1-55971-892-7.