Some books make perfect companions for very young children. ‘Backyard Bugs’ is a prime example with its small square size, brilliant colours, jaunty rhythm and rhyme, and rich and enticing words. The jubilant, bold designs on the front and back covers, featuring a spider and a beetle, instantly invite the viewer into the world of backyard bugs.
There are 11 double pages featuring 10 backyard bugs including an ant, dragonfly, earthworm, beetle, cricket, honeybee, caterpillar, butterfly, spider, snail, slug and ladybird. The intensely coloured page on the left offers the rollicking, read aloud text that captures a particular aspect of each bug. For example, ‘while spider hangs against the sky, snail and slug slip slide on leaves, the ladybird lands upon my sleeve!’ Opposite is an intricately designed page featuring a particular bug.
‘Backyard Bugs’ could be read as one long poetic experience. For example, ‘I watch an ant march up the tree, while dragonfly flits close to me’ or ‘The earthworm wriggles in the sand as beetle trips across the land.’ The choice of verbs snares the listener while the bugs created as freehand digital artwork are boldly coloured and patterned then set against an intricately designed background. Each verb such as ‘chirps’, ‘buzzes, and ‘slip slides’ reflects the particular bug. The final line, ‘In my backyard there’s lots to see. I love the bugs that live near me!’ will have young listeners racing out into their backyard to see what they can find. A grand finale illustration brings all these creatures together into a circular mosaic design that is sure to have the young viewer shouting, ‘Read it again!’
‘Backyard Bugs’ is a companion book to the similarly exuberant ‘Backyard Birds’.
Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is currently a Professor at the University of Western Australia, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission. In 2021 she was appointed WA Australian of the Year. Her children’s books are examples of stories that exude joy and entice the very young.