Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Caroline Bingham, Ben Morgan, Matthew Robertson
For ages 9 to 12
DK, 1983   ISBN: 978-0756629120

Insects and their relatives were the first creatures to walk on land four hundred million years ago, and though they would do very well without us humans, we would quite simply hit the skids if they disappeared. Dead bodies would pile up, we wouldn't have flowers, fruits, vegetable, or trees, and ""the world would be a very nasty place indeed.""

In this remarkable book the authors and editors manage to make what could be a very dry subject utterly fascinating. We learn that insects and their relatives are arthropods, creatures with jointed legs and inside out bodies. In other words they have their skeleton on the outside of their bodies. Some arthropods also have two brains, ears on their knees, and tasters on their feet. We discover that arthropods can have all kinds of leg configurations. Insects typically have six legs but their second cousins twice removed, the millipedes, have dozens.

There are many groups within the arthropod family. They include insects, spiders, and crustaceans, and a whopping ninety percent of animal species on Earth belong to the arthropod family. How is this possible?

Well, insects et al are enormously successful as a group. They can survive boiling and freezing temperatures, they eat everything from dead creatures to clothing, and they evolve to adapt to changing circumstances. Indeed there are very few places on Earth which are too harsh for these extraordinary animals.

This is the kind of title which you can dip into at random and you will always find something to interest you. All kinds of buggy facts have been pulled together to create a title which is rather addictive. Did you know that until the late 1800's the red dye used in everything from clothes to candy was made from a tiny insect? Do you know that in several countries crickets are kept as pets because of their lovely singing?

The book not only imparts information, but it also challenges readers to solve puzzles, answer questions, and examine photographs. And if you are the adventurous type, there are also recipes for fried mealworms and bee grubs in coconut cream.

Interesting articles, intriguing questions, spectacular photographs and so much more make this a title which every young person (and adult for that matter) will find entertaining and surprising.