cover image A Book of Flies: Real or Otherwise

A Book of Flies: Real or Otherwise

Richard Michelson. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $18.95 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5050-4

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.)