The Bug Club by Elise Gravel from Drawn+Quarterly shows why the “A” for Arts is right in the middle of STEAM. Sciences, like entomology, can sometimes get very technical very quickly. While the science is exciting, getting lost in terminology before building a foundation of understanding can cause a gap that may be difficult to bridge.
In The Bug Club, Gravel presents quick facts in a palatable manner that build on one another, leaving readers even more excited about the fascinating world of bugs than when they started.
Gravel is well known for her journal-style books with each page holding something different. In If Found…Please Return to Elise Gravel, the book was a collection of creativity. While there is certainly creativity in The Bug Club, the collection is much more scientifically oriented. It never gets bogged down, however, as Gravel maintains her energy with a new subject with every turn of the page. This makes readers eager to flip through and see what comes next. Then, even before the final page is turned, readers will be looking to flip back and reread in more depth what they have already seen.
Throughout the unpredictable flow in The Bug Club, Gravel masterfully builds upon earlier concepts. She first draws the reader in with a bit of autobiography, demonstrating an interest in bugs that many share. Going into more detail, she tackles the difficulty of the word “bug,” which applies to many invertebrates but certainly not all of them. She defines insects first and then later gives examples of other things we think of as bugs, such as pill bugs, which are actually a land crustacean. Even microscopic bugs take the spotlight, such as the tardigrades and their ability to survive extreme environments and being frozen for 30 years at a time.
In addition to facts, inviting images fill the pages of The Bug Club. Many are tied directly to the science itself, such as illustrations of the parts of an insect’s head. Others are funnier, such as the image of a lesser black tarantula talking proudly of his pet frog. This introduces the concept of symbiosis by showing how the tarantula protects the frog from larger predators by eating them while the frog protects the spider’s eggs from mites. It is a potentially confusing model, but presented as an entertaining cartoon, the ideas will stick in the reader’s mind with understanding.
The Bug Club is a great read for young and older readers alike looking for fun facts about bugs and acquiring a sense of passion about our creepy, crawly neighbors. After her cavalcade of awesome bug science, Gravel gives inspiration for activities such as marking a square of the garden and counting how many bugs are living where we do not think to see them. The final pages of The Bug Club present imaginary bugs and hypothesize about bugs in space, leaving the reader charged with creative inspiration on top of the blast of science, for the best of both worlds.