Friday, June 17, 2022

The Natural Genius of Ants


The Natural Genius of Ants 
by Betty Culley 
240 pages; ages 8-12
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022

The minute I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. Because: ants. I mean, you read my blog – you know my passion for arthropods!

And while this book is full of ant wisdom, nay, ant-genius, it is not really about ants. It’s a story about life and love and parents and hope and worry and …. Okay, how about if I just share a few sentences of jacket copy:

Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about the babies he helped. But since he made the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he’s taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer. 

Here’s the thing: Harvard is very observant; he notices that Dad brings his doctor bag with him. And Harvard wants to make his Dad be happy again. So when they decide to build an ant farm as a summer project, and the mail-order ants are dead on arrival, Harvard decides to substitute some local ants. Very local… as in: carpenter ants that scurry around the house. When Dad is ready to fill the ant farm frame with sand, Harvard thinks quick and suggests creating a “Maine habitat,” complete with dirt from outside and some chunks of wood.

Ryan Hodnett / Wikimedia  

What I LOVE about this book: 

  • Betty Culley’s descriptions of place are so real that you feel like you’re there – whether it’s in the cozy house or the Maine woods. I mean, you can smell the wood rot and leaf mold!
  • The characters are so three-dimensional I kept expecting them to poke their heads out of the book and say “Can you believe there are 15,000 kinds of ant?”
  • The ant facts and tidbits of info sprinkled throughout the pages. And the wonderful observations of ant behavior. 
  • The chapter titles, from Ant Poetry to Camponotus pennsylvanicus (eastern black carpenter ant). I actually have a few of these that run around my kitchen every now and then, and have whipped more than a few into frittatas.
  • The ant puns and ant jokes. They are a good ant-idote to a bad day.
  • But here’s what I liked the best: while writing The Natural Genius of Ants, Betty kept an ant farm and cared for a carpenter ant queen. You can check it out here on her website. Immersion journalism at its best!
I give this book 5 pair of antenna! (waaaay better than stars) Run, do not walk, to your nearest book seller and get yourself a copy. Then grab a large mason jar and a smaller jar that can fit inside, and a few more things and make an ant farm. Here’s how

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so scurry over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by Media Masters Publicity.


12 comments:

Rosi said...

I am reading this book right now and love it as well. I've never thought about having an ant farm, but it would be fun. Thanks for the post.

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a fantastic story that combines facts about ants with humor. It sounds like a book kids will enjoy.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

First off, I noticed your other post today about your newest book debut—that's so exciting! As for this book itself, it sounds like such an original plot line that still deals with some really valuable themes, and it's amazing that the author herself kept ants while writing it. Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Sue!

Greg Pattridge said...

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with Harvard and the ants. The story moves along at a nice pace and I learned a lot about ants. Thanks for featuring on MMGM today.

Valinora Troy said...

It sounds a great story but I'm not sure I could read about so many.ants...my skin is crawling at the thought! :) But I am tempted to try it after your great review (more because I felt for Harvard and his dad than wanting to know about ants!). Thanks for the review!

Patricia T. said...

What a wonderful way to introduce the genius of ants to readers. And, I like that it has a lot of humor and fun ant puns. Wish my nephew (4) was a little older. He loves insects.

Sue Heavenrich said...

There is so much to this book beyond building the ant farm: relationship with dad and brother, developing a friendship, becoming part of a new community...

Sue Heavenrich said...

Thanks for suggesting this book to me!

Sue Heavenrich said...

I haven't built an ant farm, though I do a lot of ant-watching. Now I kinda want to make an ant farm. OTOH there are always ants wandering through my kitchen, so... no need to formalize the relationship.

Sue Heavenrich said...

He will be a MG reader in the not-too-distant future...

Sue Heavenrich said...

Hey Max, did you drop in for some cake?

Anonymous said...

A STEM MG NOVEL--that sounds terrific!