Are you looking for books about insects and spiders for a preschool theme? You’ll love the variety in this list!
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Did you know that I’m sharing themed books lists for preschool? I reserve giant stacks from the library and read the books with my two preschool boys, ages 3 and 4. These books are kid-tested!
I’m sure you’ll find some great books here to use with your next bug theme.
From Caterpillar to Butterfly, by Deborah Heiligman
This is a nice book from the excellent Let’s Read and Find Out Science series. Children in a classroom tell the story of their caterpillar changing into a butterfly. This would be perfect to read if you are raising caterpillars at home or the in the classroom. I have had great experience with Insect Lore. They send you caterpillars, caterpillar food, and a bug cage. You get to watch each caterpillar, grow, make a chrysalis, and come out as a butterfly.
Insect Lore was a big hit with both my first grade class and at home with my preschoolers.
Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story, by Elisa Kleven
I’ll be honest and tell you that my Three didn’t care for this one, but I thought it was beautiful. Claire is a butterfly with translucent wings. One day she is swept from her home in a flower garden into the dusty city. After finding a few flowers in a dirty lot, she pollinates them. The flowers become abundant and beautiful – and their colors shine through her wings. I’d love to see a glasswinged butterfly in real life!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
This is one of those classic children’s books that every preschooler should hear. We love reading what the hungry caterpillar eats (and eats and eats) until he builds a chrysalis and turns into a butterfly. One error in this book is that the chrysalis is referred to as a cocoon.
Are You a Butterfly? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
I really love the Backyard Books series. They talk right to the child. “Are you a butterfly? If you are, you start your life in an egg like this…” And “You are going to make a chrysalis. You may not be able to spell it, but you will be able to do it.” No bug theme is complete without a Backyard Book! You can find Are You a Dragonfly?, Are You an Ant?, Are You a Grasshopper?, and more!
Waiting for Wings, by Lois Ehlert
This is a beautiful book with simple text and unique turn the flap illustrations. We follow the caterpillar’s journey to become a butterfly and visit the flower garden.
Bob and Otto, by Robert Bruel
Bob the butterfly’s metamorphosis turns into a lovely lesson for his friend Otto the worm, who doesn’t change at all but spends all his time digging tunnels. When Otto is discouraged because he’s still a worm, Bob reminds him that all his digging helps trees grow strong and produce leaves – to feed caterpillars – so they can become butterflies.
Born to Be a Butterfly, by Karen Wallace
This book has a lot of great photographs and information, but the writing style lacks voice. A so-so book if you’re reading to preschoolers about insects. A better book if your elementary school aged child is doing butterfly research.
A Ladybug’s Life, by John Himmelman
I love this beginner’s guide to the ladybug life cycle. The book is perfect nonfiction for preschoolers, as it has just one simple sentence per page. Be sure to check out other books in the Nature Upclose series, such as A Monarch Butterfly’s Life, A Pill Bug’s Life, and A House Spider’s Life.
Ten Little Ladybugs, by Melanie Gerch
This is one of those counting books that has plastic images popping up through holes in the pages. Older preschoolers might be bored by it, but my Three couldn’t resist counting the ladybugs on every page as we counted down from 10 to 1.
Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug!, by Mem Fox
This is a simple book, but my Three loved it. On each page, read the words: “Yoo-hoo, Ladybug! Where are you?” Then find the bug in this seek-and-find book for preschoolers. We had fun with the searching game on each page – and the fun rhymes are a bonus.
Ladybugs, by Gail Gibbons
Gibbons’ books rarely disappoint, but they’re not for preschoolers with short attention spans. A lot of detail is packed into this book, which might make it a better choice for older preschoolers. My boys enjoyed learning about the different kinds of ladybugs, the ladybug life cycle, and how ladybugs defend themselves. It did get a little long for my Three.
The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle
The grouchy ladybug threatens everyone he comes across. “Hey, you, wanna fight?” But he backs down every time his adversary accepts his challenge. The ladybug approaches larger and larger creatures until he finally threatens a blue whale. I find this book long, tedious, and much too repetitive. But it’s so popular I felt I should include it.
Shoo Fly! by Iza Trapani
Snatch up any picture books you see by Iza Trapani. We just love them! In each of her books she takes a familiar song and adds verses with her own unique illustrations. My kids can’t get enough of this one, and I love to sing it! “Shoo fly, don’t bother me, shoo fly, don’t bother me…”
Dairy of a Fly, by Doreen Cronin
Our favorite book in this series is Diary of a Worm, but since worms aren’t exactly bugs we’ll settle for this one. My kids love hearing about Fly’s life from her own perspective… like the fact that she has 327 brothers and sisters and that she can taste food with her feet. It’s a hilarious picture book with some fun facts thrown in.
Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards
This is a very simple book about a fly who can’t figure out how to move as he observes other insects and creepy-crawlies. Should he wiggle like a worm? Jump like a grasshopper? March like an ant? Swing like a spider?
Ride, Fly Guy, Ride, by Tedd Arnold (and other Fly Guy books)
Your child isn’t going to learn too many useful facts about flies in the Fly Guy easy reader series, but you’re both going to laugh a lot. Buzz has a pet named Fly Guy, and the two have hilarious adventures in every book. This particular one might be my favorite, but we love them all.
There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly, illustrated by Simms Taback
We like this version of the classic childhood song that every kid should know. It’s a silly song, but that’s what makes it so appealing. You might also like the versions illustrated by Pam Adams, Lucille Colandro, and Kate Toms.
When the Fly Flew In, by Lisa Westberg Peters
This is an interesting (if implausible) story about a messy bedroom with sleepy animals. The child plans to clean his room after the animals wake up. When he leaves, a pesky fly wakes each animal. When the dog wakes up, his tail sweeps toys into the bin and clothes into the hamper. The cat’s tail dusts the floor. The flying parrot cleans the cobwebs. You get the idea.
Old Black Fly, by Jim Aylesworth
We adore this rhythmic flight through the alphabet with a pesky fly who doesn’t leave anything untouched. The repetitive lines are fun to read together (“Shoo, fly, shoo, fly, shoo!”), and the hilarious illustrations by Stephen Gammell really make the book unique. This is one we own, and I don’t mind reading it over and over.
The Fly, by Petr Horacek
Both my Five and really enjoyed this book about a housefly who just doesn’t understand why no one wants him around.
The Very Greedy Bee, by Steve Smallman
The very greedy bee is too greedy to share his nectar. One day he drinks so much that he’s too big to fly home. After other bugs help him home, he learns how important is to share. A little preachy, but kind of cute.
The Queen with the Bees in Her Hair, by Cheryl Harness
At first glance, I wasn’t sure this we would enjoy this book – but it’s such a great story! Vain Queen Ruby loves to wear flowers in her hair. When these attract birds and bees, she banishes the creatures to the adjoining kingdom. But when spring comes again, there are no flowers. There are no bees to pollinate them and no birds to eat the harmful insects. The book has a wonderfully satisfying ending.
A Taste of Honey, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
This author has a gift for packing a lot of informational text into a picture book without boring kids. Her unique collage illustrations add to her books’ charm. In this one, Lily is full of questions. Where does honey come from? “This jar.” And before that? “We bought it at the market.” And before that? “A truck drove it there.” And before that? You get the idea.
The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive, by Joanna Cole
I have mixed feelings about the Magic School Bus books because they are soooo long. But my kids just love them, and they learn quite a lot about science concepts while enjoying the silly story lines. In this book Miss Frizzle takes the class on a trip to the country to visit beehives. When they get there, the children turn into bees and get a close-up look at life in a beehive.
Just a note: there are many Magic School Bus books based on the TV show and not written by Joanna Cole. My kids like those too, but the quality is poor and I’d rather skip them.
Bees! by the editors of Time for Kids
Time for Kids was a publication I loved when I taught first and second grade. This is my first experience with their Level 1 beginning science readers. It gets four stars! With beautiful big photographs and just the right amount of interesting text, it kept my Three’s attention all the way to the end.
In the Trees, Honey Bees, by Lori Mortensen
The best part of this book is the stunning illustrations. Alongside the pictures, each page has a short rhyming pair. (“Nectar sweet. Pollen treat.”) If your child is interested, read the longer informational text at the bottom of each page.
Honey in a Hive, by Anne Rockwell
Anne Rockwell is another author to watch for when you’re looking for children’s nonfiction. However, this particular one is best for kids who don’t mind longer books. Lots of good information in an engaging style – but not for impatient preschoolers.
Bee, by Karen Hartley
I hesitated to put this one on the list only because it’s probably more for kids in grades K-2. But I can’t pass up kid-friendly nonfiction, and this fits the bill. The book answers twelve questions about bees with big photographs and interesting text. It’s a Heinemann First Library book. (Any time you see Heinemann, you can be sure the quality is very good.)
Little Bee, by Edward Gibbs
This little board book is a fun story that’s not too babyish for preschoolers. At the beginning, the reader asks, “Little bee, little bee… why do you flee?” He answers, “Because there’s a hungry frog chasing me!” The frog is running from the snake, who’s running from the mongoose… and on it goes. We loved the surprise ending!
Tiny Workers, by Nancy Loewen
I’m a new fan of Nancy Loewen, who writes nonfiction in such an entertaining way. She draws the reader right in with a question. “Look! Down there on the sidewalk. What is that little pile of dirt?” The book feels like she’s talking right to you. My preschoolers were fully engaged.
Hey, Little Ant, by Phillip and Hannah Hoose
My kids really love this book about a giant boy who is about to squish a tiny ant. It’s sure to inspire conversation about whether or not we should make a game out of smashing bugs. (This mom would say no, but if they’re invading my kitchen I don’t have a problem with it.)
I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track, by Joshua Prince
This book is hands-down the favorite on this entire list. My Three and Four wanted to hear it every time they caught a glimpse of it. Rhythmic rhyme tells the story of an ant walking on the railroad track… while a freight train comes right his way. What will switchman Jack do? This book is so fun to read and listen to!
Ants, by Melissa Stewart
National Geographic Kids does a wonderful job on their level 1 nonfiction books. This is a very interesting little book, with highly engaging text and photographs. Recommended!
Two Bad Ants, by Chris Van Allsburg
I can’t tell you how many times my preschoolers asked for this book. The title might hint at a funny story, but it actually isn’t. Fascinating? Yes. It’s the story of two ants who journey with their colony to a kitchen’s sugar bowl. The two bad ants decide to stay behind and live in the house. During their harrowing day they fall in a cup of coffee, are almost swallowed, get heated in a toaster, and more.
My kids were fascinated by these adventures from an ant’s perspective. I love the advanced vocabulary and the wonderful storytelling.
Henry’s Awful Mistake, by Robert Quackenbush
This was a book my family owned when I was a child, and when I bring my own children to visit I have to read this book again… even if there are no kids in sight. Henry is preparing a meal for his friend Clara, until he sees an ant in the kitchen. In his attempts to get the ant, he breaks the wall and pipe and finally floods the house. All because of an ant!
Army Ant Parade, by April Pulley Sayre
This is the story of army ants making their way across the jungle floor. It kind of creeped me out, especially the spot where a “a frog is caught in the swarm and hops too late. The ants catch it. There are many ants to feed.” But it has some great sound effects and illustrations that might keep your preschooler’s interest.
Inside an Ant Colony, by Allan Flower
A Rookie Read-About Science book is almost sure to be a great nonfiction book for preschoolers. With just a small amount of text per page, great photographs, and fun facts told in a kid-friendly way, you can’t go wrong.
One Hundred Hungry Ants, by Elinor J. Pinczes
This is a book younger preschoolers will enjoy even if they don’t catch the math part of it. 100 hungry ants are marching in a row to a picnic. But after a few steps the littlest ant stops them. “We’re moving way too slow!” He organizes the ants into 2 rows of 50. Later, they stop again to make 4 rows of 25. And on it goes, until they finally reach the picnic in 10 rows of 10. By then, the food is gone!
If I Were an Ant, by Amy Moses
This book will get your child thinking about the world from a bug’s perspective. “If I were an ant, a meadow would be a jungle… a breeze would be a hurricane…a puddle would be an ocean.” Thought provoking and fun!
The Ants Go Marching, by Ann Owen
I just love picture books that illustrate popular songs for kids. But I hesitate with this one because of Sandra D’Antonio’s illustrations. We’ve checked out a few of her books before, and the illustrations just bug me because they seem so sloppy. I can’t draw (AT ALL), but I sort of feel like I could have done these myself. My kids don’t seem to mind, however, and yours probably won’t either.
Ant Cities, by Arthur Dorros
Arthur Dorros is an author to watch for if your preschooler enjoys longer nonfiction books. This is part of a great series called Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science. Your child will learn how ants build their hills, the work they do underground, and much more. I learned a few things myself. 🙂
Yes, I am fully aware that spiders are arachnids, not insects. All you entomologists out there — please forgive me for including them alongside our insect books. 🙂
Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani
Have I mentioned that we love Iza Trapani’s books? Maybe a few times. They’re so much fun. We love the additional verses to our favorite rhymes. One to own!
Spiders, by Laura Marsh
After reading this one I’m a new fan of National Geographic Kids books. This is a fascinating book with close-up pictures of all kinds of spiders. Did you know the Darwin’s bark spider makes a web as big as two city buses? Or that spiders sometimes eat each other? This book may not be for the squeamish, but preschoolers generally aren’t.
The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle
I love Eric Carle’s illustrations, but I confess that some of his stories bore me. This is one of them, but it might be just the thing for a toddler or younger preschooler. All the farm animals want to play with the busy spider, but on each page, she “didn’t answer. She was very busy spinning her web.” At the end she catches a fly.
Weaving Wonders, by Nancy Loewen
I love this book’s conversational style. “Do you think spiders are creepy? A lot of people do. But, creepy or not, spiders are actually very helpful.” The book is full of useful, fascinating information about spiders. And the kid-friendly illustrations are perfect! This is one worth owning.
Diary of A Spider, by Doreen Cronin
We love reading about Spider’s life… from school days (where he brings his old skin to Show & Tell, and his teacher calls on it to say the Pledge), to fun at the park (where he spins webs on the water fountain to scare children). It’s just plain fun.
Mrs. Spider’s Tea Party, by David Kirk
This and the other Miss Spider books are bright, fun stories which are engaging for preschoolers even though they have advanced vocabulary. In this first book, Mrs. Spider is devastated when none of the insects she’s invited will come to her beautiful tea party. When a drenched moth is forced to stop by, he learns that Mrs. Spider is a herbivore, and she soon becomes a friend of all the bugs.
Spiders, by Gail Gibbons
Even though Gibbons has a book for nearly every nonfiction topic, I don’t always include her titles in my book lists for preschoolers. Sometimes they’re just too informative or just unappealing to this age group. All that said, we enjoyed this one. The book gives a great overview of spiders, describes different types of webs, and has a very interesting section about different kinds of spiders. (Have you heard of the trapdoor spider, wolf spider, and water spider?)
Be Nice to Spiders, by Margaret Bloy Graham
We were so happy to discover this vintage book, and I was surprised that we’d never read it. It’s the story of Helen, a spider who keeps the flies out of all the animals’ cages at the zoo. When the zookeeper sweeps away her webs in preparation for the Mayor’s inspection, everyone learns just how important spiders can be.
Are You a Spider? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
Here’s another winner in the Backyard Book series. I love how the creative text and beautiful illustrations bring children right into the spider’s world.
Spinning Spiders, by Melvin Berger
If you’ve never heard of Melvin Berger, you need to check out his books at your library. He’s written a huge amount of science nonfiction for kids – at all different reading levels. This book is an informative and somewhat gruesome look at how spiders create webs and trap their prey. The book might get a little long for fidgety listeners, but spider-lovers will sit for it.
Spiders and Their Webs, by Linda Tagliafferro
This is the book to get if your listeners are young and squirmy. With giant photographs and just a few sentences per page, it’s a great read for both beginning readers and young listeners.
The Eensy-Weensy Spider, by Mary Ann Hoberman
We love this continuation of the popular nursery rhyme with delightful illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Young preschoolers will ask you to sing it again and again!
Other Books about Insects
I Love Bugs! by Philmeon Sturges
This rhyming picture book is a simple, quick read with colorful pictures. Not our favorite, but a good one.
Horsefly and Honeybee, by Randy Cecil
A horsefly and a honeybee fight when they land on the same flower – in fact, each bug is left with only one wing. When a bullfrog catches the bugs for dinner, they can’t get away. But when they grab each other and each flap a wing, they escape together. A nice little story about getting along.
I Like Bugs! by Margaret Wise Brown
This rhyming books is one we own, and it’s a quick fun read. Recommended!
Walkingsticks, by Fran Howard
I had to include a Pebble Plus book, because this is another one of those fantastic nonfiction series for preschoolers that you can’t miss! Snatch up a Pebble Plus book whenever you find one.
Beetle Bop, by Denise Fleming
The reviews for this one are mixed, and I’m on the negative side. It’s another simple rhyming book, but I found the pictures too blurry and dark for my kids to discern what was in them. You might feel differently, though, so it’s worth finding at your library.
It’s A Good Thing There Are Insects, by Allan Fowler
Allan Fowler has written many books for the Rookie Read-About Science series. These are truly excellent nonfiction books for young listeners and readers. The books have just the right balance between text and photographs. The words are large, easy to read, and simple — but not too simple. Even the mom learns something new! Fowler has the gift of making science concepts both interesting and accessible to young children. I recommend seeing how many of his titles you can find in your library.
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