• 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Posted on September 25, 2010

A Bug’s Life

I love bugs.

Not crawling up my arm, not in my bok choy. Not munching on skin cells in the folds of my mattress. I love insects in their natural habitat, or on the pages of a book, articulated in pen, pastel, or in a wash of watercolour. I love to draw bugs. They are impossibly intricate and lovely, up close. I used to be terrified of creepy crawly things, and I am ashamed to say I stepped on ants, and other insects beetling along sidewalks and pathways, oblivious to humans, concerned only with his or her own buggy life. Now, I almost throw myself off the trails trying to avoid stepping on a bug. The other day, I found myself staring at a dead bee in a windowsill at a bus shelter. I felt a pang of sorrow for the bee, but more than that, I was fascinated by it’s beauty, even in death. I wondered how I could transport this fragile creature home in my pocket for further study and perhaps a drawing. In the end, I left the bee where it was, and eventually walked out into the rain and caught my bus. I’m not willing…yet…to be publicly weird.

As a reformed entomophobic, it’s hard to say how I got to here from there, but I suspect walking in the river valley for 15 years has helped. You either learn to walk in harmony with nature, or you run screaming like a six year old every time a tiny creature flaps it’s wings. A book like Crickwing, by Janell Cannon, does a great service by bringing the lives of the small and the unloved to eye level, for our consideration, education, and hopefully, our appreciation. And Cannon’s illustrations are simply stunning. Not stinging. Stunning.

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