Friday, April 2, 2021

Build Your Own Bug!


How to Build an Insect 
by Roberta Gibson; illus. by Anne Lambelet 
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2021 

theme: nature, insects, art

Let’s build an insect. Where should we start?

That is a good question! And entomologist, Roberta Gibson starts at a most logical place: the head. After all, every insect needs a head…and then a thorax (like your chest) … and then an abdomen. Instead of a skeleton like us, insects wear their skeletons on the outside, like armor. After we get the body parts put together, it’s time to add the fun stuff: wings, legs, mouthparts, and eyes.

What I like about this book: Page-by-page, as we put an insect together, Roberta adds fun details. Like special feet that allow an insect to walk upside down, or eye types, or details about antennae. And the illustrations are spot-on! Of course there’s back matter (and you know by now that’s the first thing I look for)! Roberta provides more details about insect body parts and a STEAM activity.

I’ve known Roberta for a number of years; we both review STEM books and are passionate about insects. Turns out we have both done our share of ant-watching, and she has a blog devoted entirely to ants, appropriately named Wild About Ants.

So I had to ask her One Question … OK, two:

me: What has insect-watching taught you about life or writing?

Roberta: Probably the best lesson I’ve learned from insects is that they don’t look like us or act like us, but we should appreciate them. They are unusual, and beautiful, and – under a microscope – particularly amazing. Magnified, they look like art with their colors, designs, and textures.

me: So what inspired a book about building your own insect?

Roberta: My entomology professor would sometimes prank us by creating a “franken-insect” for us to identify on a test. He once glued a praying mantis head on a beetle’s body. I’ve built my own share of insects from recycled materials and even from fruit. I hope my book will encourage readers to use their creativity.

To find out more about how Roberta wrote her book, check out this post on “First Draft to Final Book”
And then hop over to the GROG Blog where she and I and a bunch of other arthropod-loving writers chat about why we love to write about bugs.

Beyond the Books:

Fold a milkweed bug . Instructions for folding an origami (or mostly origami) bug here.

Build a Bug. You'll find tons of insect craft ideas from paper-chain caterpillars to clothespin bugs here. Just ignore the snail – snails aren’t insects! 

For a closer look at insects, you need a bug box. You can make one from recycled containers with lids (yogurt or cottage-cheese containers, clear plastic bottles, carboard or plastic milk cartons). Here’s the instructions. They list “wire mesh” – but think: old window screen instead. You can substitute netting if you have that. 

Make your own edible insect! Here’s a few ideas for using fruits and veggies to make bug-snacks.

Roberta is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website.  She's written a few scientific papers - you can find them here.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher


  1. Sue, Thank you for the lovely review and the intriguing activity suggestions. I'm going to try a few myself...
    It was so wonderful talking to you. Let's do it again soon.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Roberta. I am sure going to make a bug box or two this summer.

  2. I can see how this book can give creativity a jump start! The bug-making projects are inspired! Thanks for a fun book review.

  3. This reminds me so much of the game called Cootie (I think that's what it was called) when I was a kid. Loved saying the word "proboscis" as we assembled them. Roberta's professor's glue trick is hilarious!

    1. I remember that game! "Proboscis" is such a fun word to say, too.

  4. Sue, I love the idea of a Franken-bug! Reminds so much of playing Cooties and flip the flap books that jumbled bugs, animals, and birds! This sounds like such a great book!

    1. I love those flap books! We used to play a drawing game where you fold a paper in thirds - one person draws a head and then crosses the fold with lines where the neck is. Folds over the head so can't be seen and passes paper to next person who draws the middle and a couple lines to cross that fold... last person adds final body parts. Then unfold to see what it is - always a surprise!