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.