Florian, Douglas. 1998. Insectlopedia.
San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Company. ISBN:
Taking his title from a variation of the word encyclopedia, Florian uses poetry
and dramatic illustrations to introduce readers to insects and their
characteristics. Although each poem is about an insect, Florian's
imagination is evident as he chooses to highlight attributes of each
that make it unique.
Some of the poems use sound elements to show their traits. In The Army Ants (p.13), the first
lines are "Left, Right, Left, Right," and give the sense that these
words can be read as if they were a cadence. The accompanying
pictures seems to encourage this as ants are seen marching off the page
Several poems use formatting to allow the words to portray a feature of
the insect that is the subject of the poem. In The Termites (p.38), the lines of
the poem are formatted so that the finished product resembles a termite
mound. Another example is The
Whirligig Beetles (p.22), which is written in a circle.
Florian also uses word play in some poems, and these words are
highlighted in bold. In The
Praying Mantis (p.17), the insect speaks in the first
person. In describing how she eats her prey, the bug says "Religiously." The double
meaning for this word is obvious as it refers to both the manner in
which the insect eats and also its name.
On the final printed page of the book, Florian's artwork is described
as watercolor on primed brown paper bags with collage. Each
illustration is strikingly different in its approach, and the reader
never knows what to expect from one page to the next. In the
illustration for The Daddy Longlegs,
the insect seems to be laughing along with the reader as he lifts
weights to keep his long legs in shape. In contrast, the
illustration for The Mosquitoes
has a DaVinci quality to it as a human arm is seen from the perspective
of an anatomy chart. Watercolor mosquitoes perched on the arm
drill directly into its veins. Vials of blood labeled "A," "AB,"
and "O" and also the word "Mosquito" frame the arm.
Florian has taken a seemingly simple subject and shown it to the reader
from a new angle. Insectlopedia looks at the insect world from a
new perspective that will delight and challenge children to think in
new ways. .