Dave's Garden Book Review: The Insect Wonderland
The Insect Wonderland
Verse and Illustration by Sybil Kent Kane
"This is a promise made and kept.
My work was completed while I slept.
As a butterfly's wings unfold,
At long last my insect poetry is told."
The Insect Wonderland is not only a beautiful children's book, but also a loving tribute from the author's niece, who vowed to publish it.
Sybil Kent Kane was born in 1902 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Joseph Pennell. This book is the result of her love of nature, art and poetry, and she worked on the beautiful pen and ink watercolors until blindness prevented her from finishing it.
After her death in 1994, the manuscript with artwork was discovered under her bed, needing only the completion of the cover and type placement. Her niece, Carol Kane Simerly, published this beautiful legacy for generations to enjoy.
Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an insect and the accompanying poem explains a bit about its life. Katydids come to life with violins and cellos. Inchworms roll out tiny measuring tapes and ants don carpenter caps, complimented with tiny construction tools.
Each insect is represented accurately and its habits faithfully described, right down to firefly larvae eating snails. But as her poetry attests;
"They like to eat snails,
But in a manner most kind;
First, put them to sleep
So the snails don't mind."
The beautiful pen and ink illustrations, with color, are vintage examples of the type of work popular in the middle of the 20th Century and they remind me of the images John R. Neill created for the famous Wizard of Oz series that spanned over 50 years. Suitable for inquisitive toddlers, or young readers anxious to read books on their own, this exquisite book is rich with information tailored to youngsters.
I do not normally use actual parts of the book in my reviews, but the family has graciously permitted me to scan some of the pages, so that readers can see some of the lovely artwork. For any gardener with children or grandchildren, it is a fantastic gift idea that will be treasured for years.
The whole alphabet is represented and each insect is depicted faithfully and with detail. Only the sweet faces of the little inhabitants show the difference between a technical field guide and a children's book.
I was charmed by the illustrations and delighted by the poetry. The Insect Wonderland is a labor of love that spans 2 centuries and over 3 generations, now shared with the world.
My sincere thanks for the family of Miss Kane for graciously permitting me to reproduce some of the lovely images from the book.