Last week I finished up a 2-week rotation with a "Bug" theme on the Storytime Bus, which I usually plan to coincide with late spring/early summer when there are lots of bugs outside. This is one theme that is easy to find a number of good books for!
I tried to start each storytime by talking about how some bugs are helpful, since so many people still seem to think the only good bug is a dead one. I talked about how bees make honey and pollinate flowers, lady bugs kill aphids that damage our plants, dragonflies eat mosquitoes, spiders catch annoying flies, butterflies are pretty, and fireflies are just cool! Then we did our "Letter-of-the-Day", which was the letter "Bb", and sing our story song to help us settle down and be ready for our first story.
The Very Greedy Bee by Steve Smallman and Jack Tickle seems to be an overlooked gem. I came across it shelf reading a while back and knew it would be great for storytime. It has humor, suspense, vocabulary, and a good lesson about not being greedy and being kind to others. The illustrations are cute, bright, colorful, and very engaging. I highly recommend it!
Jan Thomas' books are always a big hit with their silliness, limited text, and simple, bold illustrations. In Can You Make A Scary Face? a lady bug invites us to play pretend, after first making us stand up, sit down, and stand up again. This book is very interactive and great for a movement activity, and it even has us doing the chicken dance!
The Honeybee and the Robber is a great pull-tab book from Eric Carle that I had never seen before. We follow the honeybee through her daily activities and back to the hive, when suddenly a bear shows up, trying to break into the hive and steal their honey. Unfortunately this book is out-of-print and hard to find, so it you come across a used copy in good condition at a reasonable price, snap it up!
The Very Busy Spider is another book from Eric Carle, with a spider who is so busy spinning her web, she can't even take time to answer the other animals when they invite her to play. This is a simple story, but the kids enjoy it, and most will join in saying the repeated line "She was very busy spinning her web."
In Emma Dodd's I Love Bugs a young boy shows us lots of different kinds of bugs, ending with a spider. The illustrations are cute, slightly abstract, and colorful, and the text is very descriptive and has a nice rhythm without rhyming. The audience can try to identify each bug, but will probably need a little help with some of them, so it's a good idea to be sure the adult knows what they all are.
Paul Stickland's Big Bug Little Bug is subtitled "a book of opposites", but some of the word pairs are more contrasting than true opposites, but it is still a fun book with big, bold, colorful illustrations of bugs, some real, some fantasy, that ends in a huge, wonderfully impressive pop-up. This book is great for younger kids, but does okay with older preschoolers as well.
Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek is another good book for younger kids. As Lucy searches for her butterfly friend she played with the day before, she discovers many other bugs and small creatures. The audience can identify the bugs and/or their colors, then be amazed when the large, beautiful butterfly pops up at the end.
Like the others in the series, Snappy Little Bugs by Claire Nielson is a great little pop-up book that preschoolers almost always love. Some may feel the illustrations and text are a bit juvenile for older preschoolers, but I find they still enjoy it because of the pop-ups.
Good Night, Sweet Butterflies by Melanie Garth, Dawn Betley, and Heather Calhoon is great for 2-3 year olds and gives the opportunity to work on counting, subtraction, and colors as the sparkly butterflies settle in for the night one by one. The rhyming text is simple and while the illustrations are bright and focus mainly on a single color, but are filled with lots of other bugs and creatures.
How Many Bugs in a Box? by David Carter is part of a whole series of pop-up books featuring little bugs. In this book, the bugs start off looking something like real bugs, but then they become more silly and fantastical, with fish-bugs, frog-bugs, and ending with saw-bugs. Not only is it entertaining with the cute pop-up bugs and has counting, it also works on descriptive terms, such as colors, patterns, size, shape, etc.
"Here Is The Beehive"
Here is the beehive,
Where are the bees?
Hidden inside, where nobody sees.
Count them as they come out of the hive.
One, two, three, four, five.
I used my homemade finger-puppet glove and a picture of a beehive for this (idea and printables courtesy of Sunflower Storytime), but you can also use your fist as the beehive, and extend your fingers out one by one for the bees, which is what I have the audience do. At the end, I "buzz" all the kids with my bees, eliciting lots of squeals and giggles, and frequent requests to do it again.
"Can You Move Like Me?"
(to the tune of "Do Your Ears Hang Low")
Can you wiggle like a worm?
Can you squiggle can you squirm?
Can you flutter, can you fly,
Like a gentle butterfly?
Can you crawl upon the ground
Like a beetle that is round?
Can you move like me?
Can you flip? Can you flop?
Can you give a little hop?
Can you slither like a snake?
Can you give a little shake?
Can you dance like a bee
That is buzzing 'round the tree?
Can you move like me?
The video above shows the movements that go with it.
"Itsy Bitsy Spider"
The itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
("walk" hands up like spider)
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
(flutter fingers down, the sweep hands out to either side)
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
(make circle with hands over head)
And the itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
("walk" hands up like spider)
"The Bugs Go...."
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")
The fireflies in the sky go Blink, blink, blink.
Blink, blink, blink; Blink, blink, blink.
The fireflies in the sky go Blink, blink, blink,
All night long.
[I let the kids suggest the bugs and action/sound, but here are some possibilities]:
The crickets in the grass go Chirp, chirp, chirp....all night long.
The bees in the hive go Buzz, buzz, buzz.....all day long.
The butterflies in the sky go Flutter, flutter, flutter....all day long.
The grasshoppers in the grass go Hop, hop, hop....all day long.
The caterpillars in the grass go Wriggle (or Munch)....all day long.
The ants on the ground go March, march, march....all day long.
How It Went
The kids seemed to really enjoy this theme, even though there were always a few that could not be convinced that spiders were not bad. I had one little boy who had just turned 3 and was very apprehensive about getting on the bus for the first time, but once he saw the bug decorations became very excited and enthusiastic. I had another older boy that was just amazed when I showed them how the lowercase "b" could be changed into the letters "d", "p", and "q", just by turning it backwards and/or upside down.
All the books were pretty well received, but the older kids particularly liked the silly fun of Can You Make A Scary Face?, and they really seemed to like the story of The Greedy Bee, and how the bee learned a valuable lesson from his ordeal and became a changed bee. I think it really appeals to their sense of justice when a character suffers the consequences of his actions, but they also like the sense of hopefulness and redemption when a "bad" character leans his lesson and mends his ways. The younger kids loved the pop-up books and the pretty, glittery butterflies in Good Night, Sweet Butterflies.
All of the songs and rhymes worked well since the involved sounds and/or movements, and of course everyone knew the Itsy, Bitsy Spider. As usual they all loved feigning being scared when I "buzzed" them with my finger-puppet bees.