- Virginia Johnson
On May 17, a beautiful spring day, P. Mantis is born. On October 17, she lies down to “take a long nap” and says “Good-bye!” What happens in-between is her Awesome Summer.
The first thing you will notice when you open this picture book are all the praying mantis facts. The facts are different inside the front and back covers, so you will want to read both sides. But you don’t need to read those to enjoy P. Mantis’ story, though the facts will help you understand it better.
Born in an egg case with hundreds of brothers and sisters, P. Mantis grows and eats and grows some more, shedding her skin (exoskeleton) over and over as she grows. Sometimes she eats tiny bugs. Sometimes she eats her brothers and sisters. P. Mantis doesn’t care. She is just interested in growing.
At the fall gets colder, she will lay her eggs near where she was born, cover them up with a foam that hardens into an egg sack, and that is the end of her life. In the spring, more praying mantis babies will be born.
For kindergarteners and first or second graders who are intrigued by insects, My Awesome Summer is a very interesting book. Unlike some books about animals, the mantises are not humanized beyond belief. They don’t have friends. They have snacks. They don’t have clothes. They shed their skins as they grow.
Some children might find this presentation of the animal world to be a little cold, despite the warm colors in the pictures that show the seasons changing. But other children will find the straightforward approach to nature to be fascinating, and this book can be worked into studies about animal life or the seasons.
A book that might go well with My Awesome Summer is Janelle Cannon’s Stellaluna, a simple but lyrical story about a lost baby fruit bat. Although it has slightly more fantastic elements than the mantis book, Stellaluna does include many bat facts, and the gentle, nighttime illustrations will draw children in as readily as My Awesome Summer’s bright summer images.