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Busy Builders Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Complex structures built by eight insects and one arachnid are featured in brief, extravagantly illustrated, enormously enlarged entries. Each creature is introduced on an oversize spread: "This is an Organ-Pipe Mud Dauber. Where does it live?" No clues are provided, but the following spread with a cutaway view of the nest or other construction and a dense paragraph of explanation offers a cursory answer to the question. "The Organ-Pipe Mud Dauber (Trypoxylon politum) is a wasp named for the nest of long, narrow, multicolored tubes made of dried mud and often attached to a wall." Some further description of the insect's behavior or its building method is given, but there's no indication of its actual size, its changing form as it lives and matures in the nest, or its geographical location. The Australian Weaver Ant and the African Termite have names offering clues, but the honeybees and some others do live in more nearby places. Munro uses the four-page guessing-game scheme she used in Hatch (Marshall Cavendish, 2011), which introduces different eggs and the birds hatching from them, but the exaggerated views and sketchy, often-difficult explanations make this title more of an album of curiosities. Large and heavy in the hand, the book has bold views that might attract browsers.—Margaret Bush, May 2012
From Kirkus Reviews
Many-legged home-builders are rendered in remarkable artwork. Eight habitat-building insects plus one spider are introduced. Each receives a close-up two-page look at the animal alone followed by a full-spread painting of the web, hive or mound in which it lives, here accompanied by a description of its hunting, nesting and food-storage habits. For most of the insects, the habitat provides a way to store its eggs and hatch and nurture larvae; the spider uses its web to capture its food. The full-color ink illustrations work well to give a sense of the creature’s body structure as well as of the general look of the hive or nest for each. The individual portraits are terrifically impressive, while the handsome habitat paintings show very well from a slight distance, making this a good choice for reading aloud to a group. Munro includes within each habitat drawing a close-up or cutaway interior look at a piece of the structure. The information presented is clear and unadorned, densely packed in a trim, compact type against the background of the habitat paintings. More information appears on the insect-focused introductory page directly opposite the title-page verso, and a glossary of “Bug Words” along with a brief list of resources is included on the last page. Enticing as an introduction to insects and spiders. (Nonfiction. 4-9) -Kirkus Reviews, March 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
The large colorful drawings complement the text very nicely. The drawings are anatomically correct as nearly as I could tell. The text is too advanced for a six-year-old to read, but an older child, say eight or nine, should be able to read the book by themselves. In any case, it's a great book for parents to read to their kids. Like any good educational children's book, it gives the kids some knowledge about the subject, but raises other questions for them to ponder and ask about.
Busy Builders is an impressive-looking book. At 11" x 11", it's the size of a typical "coffee-table" book. The book begins with a brief introduction to insects. Honestly, I learned a lot from the book, including the fact that there are a billion insects for every human being. There are a lot of other Fun Facts that both parents and kids will enjoy learning. The book then gets into the "busy builders" theme, with descriptions of eight insects and one spider:
* Honey Bee
* Red Harvester Ant
* Organ-Pipe Mud Dauber
* Garden Orb Spider
* Australian Weaver Ant
* Leaf Cutter Bee
* Pine Processionary Caterpillar
* African Termite
* Paper Hornet
For each of the insects (and the spider), the text and drawings describe the life of the animal, with the emphasis on its habitat. Cutaway drawings are used for several of the insects' homes to show the details of their nest.
I'm not sure who will enjoy the book more - parents or their kids - but it's a marvelous introduction to the insect world, with just enough details to give a picture of how some insects live, without burying young kids in a ton of facts. Since several of these animals are common to many areas, most kids will have seen some of them or other similar insects, and may have wondered about them. Overall, this is a great book for learning. The colorful drawings and short, simple text descriptions of each insect will keep kids engaged and won't strain their attention spans.
Definitely five stars for "Busy Builders."
For one thing, had I seen this at the library, I might have thought it was just another cute book, as the large oversize graphics seem to resemble the typical picture book. But opening it up reveals a brilliant strategy and amazing content.
Munro illustrates the ants and bees, etc, in this title as lifelike and not cute. Everything is realistic. Every few pages she shows a two page spread of a detailed insect, then follows with a few pages of text detailing how these work to build their homes and living spaces. This is where it is unique.....the emphasis on the variety of homes is as important as the variety of insects out there.
Many details (hardly a wasted word) inform the reader all about how they live, forage, propogate, and start over. So you have a combination of unusual details (most insect books dwell on the simplest of data) as well as gorgeous and detailed realistic pictures. The paper is heavyweight and this feels like an heirloom quality book. A glossary and further reading list fills the back.
The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that the text is not only advanced, but it's compressed rather tightly into long paragraphs that are not the easiest for even experienced young readers.
In all, a gorgeous book.
This book begins with a presentation of insects and some interesting facts on insects in general and how they live. The book then presents the first bug, showing it stretched across two pages and then asking the reader, Where Does it Live? The next page shows another drawing of the bug in its living habitat along with a lengthy paragraph explaining how the bug lives and what it does from day to day. This theme is repeated all the way to the last featured bug, the paper hornet.
This book's strongest suit is its desire to educate. It presents all sorts of facts on these different insects and arachnids and it even concludes with a glossary of terms and references for other good books and websites on the subject of bugs. The facts are quite interesting and I like that the book choose some more unusual bugs for its profiles. Some of the facts will be news even to adults, so the educational aspects of the book have to be regarded as its strongest point. How many people know, for example, that African termites build mounds up to thirty feet in height? Or that Australian Weaver Ants make their nests in trees, using the leaves? This and other facts will keep kids thinking and asking questions, the way a good educational book should.
One potential con with Busy Builders, however, is that its words are many and the font is somewhat small. It is still visible and large enough to read thanks to the already large size of the pages. But there is still quite a bit of material to read on each page and many youngsters will not be able to read the book on their own. The book tries to cram in a good deal of information on each bug and doing so requires smaller font in order to fit it all on one page. It also requires the use of some words that children will not even understand, so parents will need to be ready to explain some of the words to curious young readers.
All in all, however, I still consider Busy Builders a good book because it does offer some good education and some fascinating facts. My girls let out a shriek when they turned each page and saw the large bugs at the beginning of each section, but they like the book and did ask questions about some of the bugs and the way they live. Any book that sparks my girls' curiosity is a winner in my mind and certainly a book worth buying for children.