A brief, incisive author's note precedes the body of this lively poetic introduction to nine real flies, those insects that belong to the order Diptera, and four insects popularly called flies (such as fireflies) that actually belong to other orders. The selection of subjects ranges from the familiar housefly and horse fly to the less well-known Mydas fly and soldier fly. Some choices-the latrine fly and the coffin fly, for example-rate high on the "yuck" index and are certain to provoke appropriate reactions. The brilliantly colored, painstakingly executed illustrations are imaginative, somewhat surreal, interpretations that embody salient characteristics suggested in the accompanying verse and in the scientific information presented on succeeding pages. Take, for example, the fruit fly: its proportions are enlarged but its body is an assemblage of its favorite viands; Michelson's verse comments on its habits: "I just ate a fruit fly / that was swimming in my cup. / I took a drink / and now I think / I'm going to throw up." A more objective and realistic view of the fruit fly is presented in line drawings and text on the two succeeding pages. The book is far from stodgy, though. First of all, there are those attention-getting magnificent illustrations; then there is that conver-sational text with just the kind of detail to entice readers; and finally there are the poems-jaunty, rhythmic rhymes-which lie lightly on the tongue and ear. m.m.b.
With more than a touch of whimsy and humor, this eccentric collection of poems and facts about flies is wonderfully outr . Even more droll than Michelson and Baskin's previous collaborations (Animals that Ought to Be), this volume focuses on 13 insects. The pages first depict each species imaginatively, then factually. Baskin's fanciful Mydas Fly, for example, is seated on a kingly throne and opposed by a poem in which the fly declares that although he's "filthy rich... [his] gold's no good./ Flies can't buy cars... Flies don't wear clothes/ (or underwear)./ Our food is free./ O, woe is me./ I'm one unhappy millionaire." The next page includes a pen-and-ink drawing of three real-life Mydas flies; the facing text notes that "these mostly black flies do have an orange band, like a money belt, wrapped around their abdomens.... Like millionaires, they are rare, from old families, and mostly found vacationing in the Mediterranean climates." The fictional fruit fly sports more fruit than Carmen Miranda, while the factual prose text includes the news that a mother fruit fly "might lay twenty-five eggs a day for forty-five days in a row, and ask for nothing but a rotten bit of banana to eat." Sometimes the facts are Bart Simpson-ghoulish: "Coffin flies live their lives in buried coffins, feeding on dead bodies," and "Latrine flies really do lay their eggs in horse and cow droppings." The offbeat aggregate of facts and fictions, the splendid illustrations and the sly wit of both drawings and text will make this a book that both children and adults can enjoy together. All ages. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A Book of Flies, Real or Otherwise, presents hilarious poems of fantasy and paintings paired with factual descriptions and illustrations, all based on common names of flies. Some readers may think that flies are an unpromising group to be treated in poetry and painting, and in fact, their actual beauty is not recognized here. This is a work of imagination. The stories and poems are generally quite silly. For example, the housefly is illustrated as a flying house, with a poem describing how nice it would be to be carried to school while still in bed. The next page spread contains a more realistic picture of houseflies and a paragraph about their anatomy. Fruit flies, deerflies, coffin flies, and fireflies are among the other insects included. The fantasy illustrations are more interesting than the realistic ones, which are often flat, overly abstract, and not evocative of the species they represent. The factual text is interesting and has only a few errors. The book seems to be aimed at small boys, who are expected to be attracted to disgusting things, and since we all have some small boy in our personalities, I'd recommend this book for any adult to read to any child. Highly Recommended, Grades PreK-Grade 8. REVIEWER: Dr. Catherine Reed (University of Minnesota)