Michelson, Richard. A Book of Flies, Real or Otherwise. Illustrated by Leonard Baskin. Marshall Cavendish, 1999. ISBN 07614-5050-5. $18.95. 56 pp. A 2+ PB PT Reviewed by Lillian Heil From huge horseflies, some with a wingspan as long as two inches, to the smallest fairy fly, smaller than the period at the end of a sentenceCand not really a fly, Michelson's wit and Baskin's outlandish illustrations give the reader a new perspective. Along with this new perspective, the book offers lots of factual information about nine real flies (as scientifically defined), and about bugs with the word “fly” in their names (like the damsel fly and firefly), which aren't really flies. Michelson's rhymed verse focuses on the unique characteristics of each fly, like the latrine fly: “My classmates call me “stinkerbell' but I love all of nature's smells.” Sometimes he invents a fly. The dragonfly is in hot pursuit of a damselfly. A “knightfly” (there is no such thing) tries to rescue her, but “too late! (For this hot date) The dragon ate her fried.” After each poem, Michelson explains the real and the unreal so that the reader knows the difference and can better understand the connection between the two. Baskin has done fantastic illustrations for the poems (a horse's head for the horsefly, a throne for the midas fly) and realistic drawings to accompany the informational page. This humorous book of verse and information will enlighten the reader about the bad side of flies (some spread disease) and the surprisingly good side. The vast majority are harmless and help us survive; they pollinate flowers, are an important link in the food chain, and help to keep the earth a little tidier by eating and burying dead animals. The author wants readers to think about these things the next time they swat a fly.
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