Leslie Bulion is a writer with a definite fascination with science—and people. She has authored articles for print and internet magazines, and edited books for teachers. Her writing for young readers includes both novels for the middle grades like Fatuma’s New Cloth, Uncharted Waters, The Trouble with Rules, and The Universe of Fair. And she has several amazing science-themed collections of poetry including Hey There, Stinkbug, At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse, Leaf Litter Critters, Superlative Birds, and her newest collection—Amphibian Acrobats.
Meet spiders that spit silk, roll like wheels, scuba dive, hide under trap doors, strum tunes, and so much more. Watch as they find mates, find prey…or find mates that become prey!
Award-winning poet Leslie Bulion and illustrator Robert Meganck team up again for this clutter (a collective noun for spiders) of Haiku and other short poems and humorously accurate illustrations that celebrate the amazing attributes of Araneae.
The book is also packed with helpful sidebars, call-outs, and backmatter, including a glossary of science terms, notes about the poetic forms, a list of common and scientific names, a spider-hunting adventure how-to, resources for further study, and a relative-size chart. A feast for science and animal fans and a bonanza for teachers and students interested in cross-curricular studies!
Leslie was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book too:
Me: Spiders! Where did the interest in spiders come from? How did you decide on this topic for your next book? How did you decide which spiders to highlight? And what a fun and clever book title!
Leslie: A few years ago while having a SUPERLATIVE BIRD hands-on adventure at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, Dr. Linda Rayor invited me to visit her arachnology laboratory. Who’d say no to that?? There I met all kinds of fascinating arachnids including amblypygids (whip spiders who aren’t true spiders), tarantulas, and social Australian huntsman spiders that live in family groups—which I learned was not typical spider behavior. I left that lab with two gifts: Dr. Rayor’s infectious arachnid enthusiasm and my first cool spider science story. Once I began reading about the myriad ways our nearly fifty thousand different species perform activities of spider daily living—weaving webs, hunting, mating, caring for young…or not, etc.—I knew I’d want to highlight more than one example for each activity. So, lots of short poems, right? That’s when the title “Spi-ku” popped into my rhyme brain!
Me: How did you decide on which short poem form to use for describing which spider?
Leslie: At first I thought I’d write an entire book of haiku, but my subjects have their own ideas! Some have the stillness of a haiku. Some insist on rhyme. Some start singing. All develop and grow from words and ideas I’ve collected in my researchnotes. It wouldn’t be the first time I had to modify an organizing idea for a science poetry collection!
Me: The illustrations for this book are marvelous and full of detail and energy. Did you consult with the artist (Robert Meganck) to ensure scientific accuracy? Did you provide scientific drawings orsources? What images did you use as you were composing your poems?
Leslie: Robert is so amazing, isn’t he? Spi-ku is our fourth book together, and we work as true collaborators. We share information and ideas back and forth. We’re both always editing, tweaking, and in Robert’s case, always adding to the fun. And wow, we get into such weeds when making these books. For Spi-ku, the “weeds” were spider eyes: how to choose which of the six or eight eyes in each species’ arrangement would be the best candidates for signature Meganck googlies. Serious science!
Me: Which spider in this book is now your favorite and why? Or if you were one of these spiders, which one would you be and why?
Leslie: "Favorites" questions are always impossible for me, Sylvia. I do love the jumpers, though…so at least I’ve narrowed it down to six thousand species or so. If I were one of the spiders in Spi-ku? Let me say right off that while I do love smoothies, I’m not sure I’d ever want to make mine by stabbing, envenomating, and liquidating my living animal foodstuffs! If I can substitute photographic prey capture, I am a SCUBA diver, so the diving bell spider life just might be the spidey life for me!
And just for fun: Here's Leslie spider hunting!
Thank you, Leslie and Peachtree, for this "sneak peek" into this new book. I'm looking at spiders with even more fascination and respect, thanks to you!
Now, head on over to Pleasures on the Page where Ramona is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering!