The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer (words and pictures) and Barbara Taylor (bug expert). Thames & Hudson, 2016. 9780500650677. 64pp.
I’ve had this large format picture book on a shelf next to where I work in my dining room for the last six months, and I can’t stop picking it up. Each two-page spread has a few short bug (i.e. scuttling, crawling, wriggling, “insect-like” invertebrate) facts that range from the general (Baby Bugs, Bugs on the Move, Bug Words) to the specific (Spiders, Earthworms, Termites, Snails). But it’s the art that keeps bringing me back. There seems to be a slight translucence to the bugs, as with Eric Carl’s insects and animals. They fill the nooks and crannies of the scenes and appear not just in bushes and grass and trees and the sky but in pencil cases and even between the pages of a book. The paintings are remarkably flat, and the insects can appear, at a glance, disproportionately large compared to the tractors and houses and other objects of size in the images, but this seems like Zommer is playing with perspective and left it up to me to figure out which of the bugs is right in my face vs. at a good (safe) distance. Most of the colorful bugs are anthropomorphized to just the right extent — they look cheerful (bees), jaunty (grasshoppers), and like they’re having fun (upside down water beetles). Even hungry birds don’t seem to freak any of them out.