• Posted on May 31, 2012

Picks & Tweets from the Illustrated Word

Hmm…I seem to have forgotten about this little feature on my blog. Perhaps ‘forgotten’ is not quite the word. Neglected. It’s a shame really, because it allows me to take stock of all the articles and interesting and/or bewildering and/or freaky bits of information that is the raison d’etre of Twitter. Too many to mention here. Fresh start then, with just a few highlights from the last few weeks.

Starting with…the poop on bodily functions in kids’ books. Trust me…this is an interesting article, and certainly relevant if you work in a bookstore or a library. As a former employee of a bookstore, let me just say that I’d be more inclined to like Walter the Farting Dog if the illustrations were good, which they’re not. But then again, how do you visually compete with a farting dog? It’s not a bad book, it’s quite funny in fact, but what bothers me is that William Kotzwinkle, the author of this treatise on canine gas emissions, is a very fine writer of adult fiction, and once you’ve absorbed Walter and his farts, I would highly recommend that you read The Bear Went Over the Mountain, or any of his other books. But I digress. In my 12-odd years at the bookstore, I don’t recall any customer, young or old, being offended by this book, or Good Families Don’t, or The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business (which has some rather gorgeous illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch), but strangely enough, many adults did have trouble asking for How to Shit in the Woods, our most popular (and no doubt, most useful) hiking guide. Without fail, the ‘shit’ was either whispered, or omitted altogether from the recitation of the title. It’s OK people, everybody poops.

Read More

  • Posted on May 28, 2012


I did not intend to write another post about a bugs, but UnBEElievables found me a few days after I purchased The Beetle Book, and well, bees are irresistible. Like beetles (and all bugs), I was scared of these tiny, furry creatures for most of my life, or at least until I started observing and learning about them. However, as in all things, the more you know, the less fear it engenders (tarantulas excepted.) And there is a lot to know about bees~a lot we should know, and a lot that is just fun to know.

In UnBEElievables, Douglas Florian gives us both, along with some truly fetching bee art. In 14 lively poems, Florian introduces us to the intricate and highly structured life of the honeybee. Each poem is accompanied by factual blurbs and the most charming paintings of insects this side of a grade two class. This is not a criticism. The multi-media illustrations are full of smiling bees, and it’s impossible not to respond in kind while flipping the pages of this book. Even the super cool, sideways cap-wearing bees of Drone (“Brother! Yo, Brother! Bee-have in your hive!…”) are sporting grins. This is a good thing, as it’s important to see apis mellifera as affable, hard-working, and life-enriching contributors to our world. Indeed, viewed through Florian’s nimble and mischievous imagination, UnBEElievables will make you want to run out and beefriend a bee. Just don’t look for the hats. I’m pretty sure he made that up.

Read More

  • Posted on May 08, 2012


I have late adult-onset beetle fever. Actually, it is the weevil (with their admirable snouts) who really rock my boat, but any beetle will do. I used to be scared of beetles, bees, and buggery of any sort, but now I am pleased to report that I live in amiable companionship with all insects. Must be the walking. After 17 years of tramping around the ravines and trails of my city, I’ve learned to be at home with the tiny lives that populate the world in numbers far greater than human.

As a sometime illustrator, bugs (as a subject matter) are about as good as it gets, and I believe Steve Jenkins would agree. In The Beetle Book, Jenkins is clearly besotted with all one million of the species, 650,000 of which have yet to be named. According to Jenkins, if you lined up every kind of plant and animal on earth, “…one in every four will be a beetle.” That’s a lot of beetles, and while only a few if these (comparatively speaking) are included in The Beetle Book, the variation in size, colour and design is truly remarkable. And in Jenkins hands, these little, and sometimes not so little guys are works of art. Works of art with antennae. Hey, one man’s antennae is another man’s haystack. Step aside, Mr Monet.

Read More