Steve Jenkins,
The Beetle Book
(Houghton Mifflin, 2012)

They're big. They're colorful. And they're bugs.

The Beetle Book, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a great introduction for kids with an interest in the creepy/crawly aspect of nature. Adults, too, will find plenty of good information here, and the large renderings of the many types of beetles within -- a few times bigger than life, so don't panic when you see them -- are almost cute.

I thought at first they were paintings, but it turns out they're all torn- and cut-paper collages. Wow, that's even more impressive.

Beetles can be useful -- for instance, Jenkins tell us, without dung beetles, the grasslands of the world "would soon be buried in animal droppings," while the thick-legged flower beetle helps to polinate plants. Some are pests, like the Colorado potato beetle, which are the bane of potato and tomato crops, and boll weevils, which can devastate a field of cotton, or the stink beetle, which "defends itself with a discharge of foul-smelling liquid."

And some are downright dangerous. The bombardier beetle squirts "a blinding, boiling hot liquid into the face of an attacker," while the toxins from an iron cross blister beetle "produces painful blisters on human skin ... (and) a horse can die from accidentally swallowing a few with its feed." The violin beetle repels predators "by squirting acid from a gland in its abdomen."


Informative, either to get a budding young entomologist started on his career or simply to provide a little trivia about a very common type of critter, The Beetle Book is an easy read that's full of easily digestible facts.

By the way ... most of the illustrations are larger than life, but Jenkins also includes life-sized silhouettes of many varieties of beetle, so readers can get a sense of scale. Nuts, some of these buggers are big.

book review by
Tom Knapp

20 April 2013

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