Friday, July 20, 2007

Over in the Garden

Recently, I reviewed Hotel Deep, a fine collection of poems about sea creatures that was written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. Today, we'll mosey over to the garden where I'll review two books in which we'll find out about the goings on of an assortment of insects and other "buggy" things that hang out in the flowers and greenery...the fruits and the vegetables.


Written & illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
Harcourt, 2001

Oddhopper Opera is another great combination of poetry and art brought to us by the talented Kurt Cyrus. The format of this book is much the same as that of Hotel Deep. This is a collection of untitled poems connected by a theme. Once the temperature gets to sixty degrees, the little "bugs" start hopping and kicking and thrashing and thumping/Rooting and scooting and jabbing and jumping/Bouncing and biting and buzzing and bumping.

In Cyrus's "garden of verses" ants boink heads, snails have a race, dung beetles roll balls of dung, a frog bemoans its diet of maggots, worms, and flies, a sly snake slithers around like a belly with a head stuck on, a fly insists a maggot can't be his progeny, a spider with a pugnacious personality becomes bird food, and crickets and katydids and other little critters that indulge themselves to bursting in the luscious garden bounty end up with bellyaches.

This is certainly a light-hearted look at the experiences and activities of insects and other creatures that inhabit a garden. I found myself chuckling aloud as I read some of the poems. Cyrus has a good feel for meter and his poems scan well. I have little doubt that this book will appeal to kids. I know I would enjoy sharing this poetry book with a classroom of elementary children.

Here are two excerpts from the book:

All of the snails are starting a race.
Give 'em some room! Give 'em some space!
Give 'em the go-ahead! Give 'em a cheer!
These are the things that they hanker to hear.
Give them a holler, a nod, and a nudge...
Give them a minute, and see if they budge.

And after the bugs gobble and gulp and cram down rutabags and red potatoes, cabbages and beans, pumpkins and collard greens:

Beetle has a bellyache, Weevil has a cramp.
Mama Pitter-Patter-Pede is belching like a champ.
Katydidn't, Cricket wouldn't, Hopper couldn't chirp.
All they do is roll around and burp, burp, burp.

Young kids and adults alike will get a kick out of Cyrus's "Bug's Garden of Verses."

Written by Jennifer Ward
Illustrated by Kenneth J. Spengler
Scholastic, 2002

Over in the Garden uses the rhythm and structure of "Over in the Meadow" in this counting book about praying mantises and ladybugs...snails and dragonflies...bees, butterflies, fireflies, spiders, soldier and worker ants...and a little critter with a lot of names--the roly-poly aka wood louse, sow, bug, and pill bug. In a text that maintains near-perfect rhythm from beginning to end, the aforementioned creatures are plenty active in a garden setting as they pounce, crawl over petals, zip, slither on the damp, earthy floor, jump, nibble, roll, glow, and march up a long, curly vine.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

Over in the garden where the sunflowers grew
Lived a mother ladybug and her little beetles two.
"Crawl!" said the mother. "We crawl!" said the two.
So they crawled over petals where the sunflowers grew.

Included in the Back Matter of the Book:

  • First stanza and music for Over in the Garden

  • Fun Facts with further information about the insects and bugs named in the verses--as well as explanations of the following terms: larva, nymph, metamorphosis, arachnid, and arthropod

The author consulted Dr. Elizabeth A. Bernays who is Regents' Professor Emeritus and Joint Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona.

List of Children's Books about Gardens from Clemson University

Click here for my review of Busy in the Garden by George Shannon

Click here for my review of I Heard It from Alice Zucchini: Poems about the Garden

Click here to read Colleen Mondor's review of Oddhopper Opera


Anonymous said...

Those look great. Thanks! I'm going to go look for them.

Anonymous said...

Well-done review. The artwork looks amazing for that one!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Jules and Kelly,

I hadn't been able to find my hardcover copy of ODDHOPPER OPERA for some time. I was upset because the book had gone out of print. Then...just about a week ago...I found a copy of the newly published paperback in my favorite children's book store. I think I like the book better now than I did before. It's a lot of fun.

Saints and Spinners said...

The snail race poem made me laugh out loud.