Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Beetle Book

The Beetle Book

Steve Jenkins
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013   ISBN: 978-0547680842

If we were to gather together every plant and animal on our planet, one in four of them would be a beetle. Unlike mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians, insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies. This hard outer casing is often colored, and in some species it has, over time, become quite dramatic looking.

   In addition to this external skeleton, all insects have six pairs of legs, a body that is divided into three parts, mouth parts, antennae, and eyes. Most beetles also have wings. Since wings are delicate things that can easily be damaged, beetles have hard wing casings that cover the wings when they are not in use and that can swing up and out of the way when the beetle needs to fly.

   What make beetles so interesting is how they have taken this simple body form and adapted it. Beetles have been around for 230 million years, so they have had plenty of time to evolve and thus beetles can survive in most environments.

   In this truly remarkable book, the author shows us how varied and often colorful beetles are. Some have long horns, which they use to battle one another, and many have developed incredible camouflage so that predators cannot see them. Others choose to protect themselves by attacking predators with noxious chemicals. They can run or fly away if threated, and some can even swim, taking bubbles of air with them when they dive. The click beetle can flip its body through the air when it needs to get away from danger. We also learn about beetle feeding strategies, beetle life cycles, beetle communication, beetle senses, and more.

   What makes this book unique is that stunning torn and cut paper collage artwork fills the pages. The author beautifully captures the colors and textures of the insects he describes, annotating his artwork with interesting sections of text. Often the colored paper art illustrations are accompanied by black silhouette illustrations that are life size, so that readers can get a sense of how small or how big the featured insect is.

   Both animal and art enthusiasts will enjoy this title.