Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
It may be snowing in Minnesota, but bugs will be crawling out soon. Today we chat with Bruce “the Bug Guy” Giebink and photographer Bill Johnson, collaborators on Minnesota Bug Hunt, a new children’s book about insects big and small, fierce and friendly.
Find out why they are both fascinated by the Mantisfly.
How did you become interested in bugs?
Although I’ve had naturalist tendencies since I was a kid, I wasn’t especially fascinated with insects as a group until I took an introductory entomology course in college. I had no idea of the incredible diversity that exists in the insects. They come in a nearly endless variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and more species continue to be discovered on a daily basis. Many truly do look like mini alien creatures! Once I began to study them more closely, I started to appreciate their amazing ability to survive and adapt to their environment. As a group, they interact with each other and the environment in some truly amazing ways. One area I find particularly fascinating is how insects interact with each other and plants on a chemical level. Although many insects live in a visual world, even more exist within an amazing world of smells.
One of my earliest memories is from around age three or four and I was looking at some hollyhock flowers and saw something fly into one. Being very curious, I walked up to the flower and for some reason stuck my finger in it. Well, the flower bit back. That was a big surprise for me! After a few seconds, I realized that it wasn’t the flower that bit me, but some large insect that quickly flew out of the flower. Later I determined that it was a large bumblebee that had stung me, only because I had just poked it. Because of that, I made it a point to find out what did that and why it did that. To this day, happily, that investigation continues.
If you were a bug, what bug would you be?
I’d want to be a praying mantis. Mantids are very active and alert predators with excellent vision. They have a very good idea of what’s going on around them. Within the bug world, they are a top predator, so there aren’t many other bugs you’d have to worry about eating you–except perhaps a larger, hungrier mantis! Most can fly, so you’d be able to fly around, just for the sheer joy of flying or to escape danger or to check out different habitats. For an insect, they also live a fairly long time (2.5–4.5 months).
How do you get such detailed images?
With the right equipment, patience, and practice, it’s really not that hard to do. The best lenses to use are referred to as “macro lenses,” specifically made for close-up photography. When working at such a small scale and subject matter, depth of field is almost nonexistent, so the addition of a flash or multiple flash units is required to achieve sharp detail.
What is your favorite cool fact in the book?
The crazy life cycle of the Mantisfly. By appearance alone, the Mantisfly definitely qualifies as a bizarre bug! It’s got grabbing front legs (like a praying mantis), a really long neck (about the only other bug I know with a long neck is the Giraffe Beetle, another bizarre bug!), and beautifully patterned wings (like a lacewing). The life cycle of the Mantisfly is so unusual and detailed that I had a very difficult time keeping the description as short as it is. I wanted to say a LOT more! The world of bugs is truly full of weird and wacky characters. The more you look, the more you find. If I had been a part of creating the movie A Bug’s Life you would have seen some REALLY WEIRD and CRAZY bugs, some behaving in a truly WEIRD manner!
I like the Mantisfly life cycle story. In the insect world, it’s eat or be eaten, and you do what you can to be successful in one and try to avoid the other. To do that sometimes requires being really sneaky or devious as well as being able to show off bright colors, startling patterns, and weird body shapes.
What do you hope readers will get out of this book?
When readers (or even those just looking at the pictures) pick up this book, I hope they’ll appreciate the incredibly detailed pictures and want to know more about what they’re looking at. When they read about a particular insect, I hope they’ll say, “Cool! I didn’t know they did that!”
After seeing all the different sizes, shapes, and colors of the insects in this small book, I hope they’ll appreciate the incredible variety or diversity that exists in the world of insects, even in a temperate location like Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. I hope this tiny glimpse into the hidden and mysterious world of insects will pique their interest enough to want to explore their own backyards, woods, and ponds to find their own bugs. Once they find them, I hope they’ll want to learn more about them, such as what they are, what they eat, how they protect themselves, etc.
More than anything, I hope they develop an appreciation for all the many important jobs that insects do and begin to realize how important they are to the natural world. In many respects they truly are “the little things that run the (natural) world.”
Meet Bruce, Bill, and some bugs tomorrow at Red Balloon in St. Paul at 10:30 a.m. Click on the hyperlink for the title, above, for more events with the authors.
Tomorrow, Saturday January 26, at 11 am
Wild Rumpus, Minneapolis
Come check out real ice fishing equipment with author Deb Larson and her husband at Wild Rumpus, play a fishing game, and enjoy hot cider as Deb reads her new book, One Frozen Lake. Then, weather permitting, join her on Lake Harriet for an ice-fishing demonstration after the store event!
* Publishers Weekly Starred Review!
“[A]n atmospheric ode to ice fishing and intergenerational companionship . . . readers will come to recognize that a day spent in good company is more important than whether one’s fishing bucket is full on the way home.”
Excerpt from Wishing for a Snow Day: Growing Up in Minnesota by Peg Meier which includes childhood reminiscences such as this one from Melvin Lynn Frank.
“In winter the Farview hills were a constant challenge. One steep hillside was especially fearsome and bumpy for sliders—an awesome slope that gave breathtaking speed to a ride. Then when nature provided the white gift of snow, kids spent hour after hours on Flexible Flyers riding belly floppers till dark.
Of course, there was street sliding as well. The hill by the fire barn on Lowry was alluring. When it was icy, a youngster could go coasting for three blocks, all the way down to the Soo Line tracks by the shavings shed near the mill. This slide meant crossing the streetcar tracks on Washington Avenue. The boys walking back up the hill stood on the car tracks and signaled those at the top to come on when the coast was clear. Once in a while a boy would mistake a ‘don’t come’ signal for an ‘all clear’—like the day when a youngster went clean under a streetcar, right between the tracks, and continued for two more blocks, scared to death to the end of his ride. The rest of us were shaken, too, and must have been more careful after that experience. I cannot recall that any of the gang was hurt while sledding.”
Image: Boys on toboggan at Groveland Park Elementary School, St. Paul, 1961.
Minnesota Historical Society
[Update--One Frozen Lake received a starred review in Publishers Weekly!]
“I grew up in an ice-fishing family. Just about every Saturday in the winter, my dad would load up this light blue Chevy with an ice shack (which he built himself), jig sticks, tackle, bait, propane heater, thermos of hot cocoa, and most importantly, a wide assortment of candy and snacks. Since ice shacks are tiny, my sisters and I took turns going with him. I felt lucky when it was my turn. I vividly remember what it felt like to be inside the shadowy and surprisingly warm ice shack. I remember card games, peering into the mysterious ice holes, playing with the minnows, and eating a LOT of Snickers bars. What I don’t remember is catching fish. . . .
“When my son was eight years old, my dad took him ice fishing for the first time. He returned home pink-cheeked and jabbering about how much fun he had with Grandpa. The fact that they did not catch one fish clearly did not matter. My son could not wait to venture out again.
“I knew then I wanted to write a picture book about the unique, quirky sport of ice fishing and, specifically, how waiting for the fish to bite in a minuscule shack brings generations together and creates lasting memories.”
We’re glad she did!
Please click on the book title link, above, for upcoming signings with Deb.
This year’s Twin Cities Book Festival will take place at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul this Saturday, October 13, from 10 am to 5 pm.
“The Twin Cities Book Festival—presented each year by Rain Taxi—is the annual get-together for the Twin Cities’ devoted literary community. The always-free Festival includes readings by world-class authors and local literary heroes; a day-long book fair featuring publishers, authors, booksellers, and more; a children’s pavilion with storytelling, crafts, and activities; and much more!” (From the TC Bookfest website.)
Stop by our booth and say hello!
Painter and cartoonist Chris Monroe draws the weekly comic strip Violet Days and is the illustrator of the MHS Press book, Big Little Brother, written by Kevin Kling, and the author and illustrator of Monkey with a Tool Belt and Sneaky Sheep, among other books for children. Her exhibit, Chris Monroe: New Work, is showing at the George Morrison Gallery, Duluth Art Institute, through Sept. 30.
1. What is a typical weekend for you?
I’m always happiest when it is the weekend, I am at home in Duluth, and I have no actual plans.
2. What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?
Fridays, if I go out, I might go to the Zinema for a movie. They sell beer and wine there so I don’t have to smuggle beer into the theater in my purse like I typically do. I also might go to Bergey’s, a neighborhood pub with karaoke on Fridays. One guy sings “Coward of the County” every Friday. I think he’s figured out that I think it is funny, and I’m pretty sure he avoids looking at me when he’s done. I always clap, but I have a lot of questions about the plot of that song.
3. What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?
Saturdays are like a free day. Sometimes I go to estate sales or the farmers’ market with my mom. After that I get groceries, wine, and supplies to hang out and cook and drink. I talked to a friend one weekend at the co-op and she said she could not wait to get the food home so she could start drinking. I loved her for that. I sit out on my deck, weather permitting, and gaze blankly at the lake and sky, or read from my stack of library books.
I usually cook my own breakfast on the weekend. I like to have nitrate-free breakfast meat, but my friend Meghann says there is no such thing. That is sad. I need to research this. I also love plain Seven Stars Farm yogurt with some sort of berries or bananas. I eat that every day, but weekends get the full breakfast treatment. I like to involve some cheese, onions, and potatoes.
I like having breakfast at the Sun Shine Cafe in West Duluth. Sadly they are closed on Sundays, which is when I always want to go there. I also like the Duluth Grill. They have free-range eggs and a lot of sustainable or organic food items on the menu. For me though, it is just too busy on weekends and I can’t take the line of people by the door. It’s like they are sadly mooning about up there in line, staring at everyone in a booth and willing them to eat quickly and free up a table. Probably all in my mind, but I feel like a lout reading the free papers and eating slowly. I’m happy they are busy though. It’s a great restaurant.
Somebody could open another breakfast joint around here with organic food and really make a lot of money I bet.
4. What is your weekend reading like?
5. What is your top Minnesota getaway?
My top Minnesota getaway is probably the Twin Cities. I like going the reverse way of all the traffic on I-35 on the weekends. I love to go there and eat good food, go shopping, visit friends and family, hear some good music. But I feel sorry for everyone heading south on Sunday, having to go back to work in the city or suburbs. It is a good feeling to head north against the flow of nonstop city-bound traffic. I feel like I’ve done something right in life. I love the moment when you come over the hill and see Duluth and Lake Superior stretched out below. It feels so great to be home.
Celebrate Read & Ride Day with your public library in Carousel Park tomorrow, Wednesday August 29th, at the Minnesota State Fair. You’ll find stage shows all day long and fun activities for the family under the tent.
Public library card holders receive a discounted admission ticket price when they purchase a ticket at the gate and present a valid library card. (One discount per card.)
Meet up with fellow library lovers at noon in Carousel Park for the Library Card Mob!
More info from the Metro Public Libraries:
Activities Under the Tent:
Make & Send State Fair Postcards: Share your 2012 State Fair experience with someone special on a postcard you design yourself. If you have the address we’ll mail it for you from the Fair, or take it with you to mail later.
Game On!: Test your knowledge at the Spin & Win Trivia Wheel. Test your luck at Library Plinko! Everyone’s a winner on Read & Ride Day!
Get Carded!: Stop by the Read & Ride Day tent to show us your library card and get your “I Got Carded” button to wear with pride during your day at the Fair.
Get Your Words Here: Need help with your Fabulous Fair Alphabet game card? Your public library has the words to help you complete it. If you have not stopped by the Alphabet Forest (in Baldwin Park), you can pick up your game card here and get started. We’ll also provide directions to the Alphabet Forest where you receive your blue ribbon.
Adventures In the Park:
Read & Walk—Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet: Read a book while you walk across Carousel Park! Enjoy Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet, with photos by Joe Rossi and words by David LaRochelle as you make your way between the Grandstand to Carnes Ave.
This coming weekend will mark the 46th Annual Edina Art Fair. Friday, June 1, to Sunday, June 3, enjoy a fun family outing at the corner of 50th & France. The Edina Art Fair, the second largest in Minnesota, is the first official art fair of the summer.
This fair showcases a large variety of art from around the Twin Cities and the country. Over three hundred artists will be displaying their unique works, including painting, photography, ceramics, engravings, wood carvings, glasswork, and jewelry. The fair also includes a special collection of GREEN artwork made by artists using only recycled materials. Artists were chosen from over six hundred applicants from around the country.
The Edina Art Fair also offers different events, activities, and performances each day. Throughout the weekend there will be fashion shows and musical performances, and a Kids Art Zone provides activities for the whole family, including face painting and puppet shows. A full list of activities and performance times is available at the Edina Art Fair website.
A fair would not be complete without delicious food: plenty of booths from local restaurants are gathered in two food courts. Enjoy smoothies, kettle corn, tacos, lemonade, and more.
The Edina Art Fair runs from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday through Sunday, and admission is free. See the website for parking tips.
Whether you’re an art buff or just want to enjoy good music and great food, be sure to stop by the 46th Annual Edina Art Fair this weekend!
From the theatre’s website: “Rainbow-colored headdresses, pulsating drumming, and fancy footwork are part of the excitement of a Native American powwow. World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie and the Native Pride Dancers perform flamboyant movements passed down by their ancestors and sacred songs from the Northern Plains.”
This Sunday, February 26, The Current presents Rock the Cradle, a free day of fun for kids and their grown-ups, held at two of the state’s premier arts and cultural institutions, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Children’s Theatre Company. The annual kids’ event brings together families and social groups from all over the Twin Cities to enjoy music, art, books, puppetry, theater, and the community for a fun, entertaining, and engaging day. Check the website for details on planning your trip.
Join Kevin Kling at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. as he reads his acclaimed children’s book illustrated by Chris Monroe, Big Little Brother, in the MIA’s Pillsbury Auditorium as part of the Rock the Cradle festivities.