The Beetle Book
“Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth…and one of every four will be a beetle.” So begins the Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins, a treasure trove of fascinating facts about beetles the world over, including information about body structure, life cycles, communication, defenses, and other beetle behaviors. Most interesting are the adaptations of particular beetles, such as the forest fire beetle, whose heat-sensing spots on its body can detect a fire from more than 20 miles away, and the leaf beetle, which produces a sticky substance that will glue shut the jaws of any ant who attempts to eat it. Author/artist Jenkins uses great analogies to help readers understand the breadth and variety of the beetle world. In describing the Australian tiger beetle, the fastest runner in the insect world, Jenkins states, “If a human could run as fast-for her size—as a tiger beetle, she’d be moving as fast as a jet airplane.” While there’s no glossary alphabetical index, there is a list of all the beetles featured in the book, each with its scientific name and the place in the world where it can be found.
In this book, as in his many others, Jenkins uses his artistry and masterful use of cut and torn textured paper to enhance the natural beauty of the creatures; his meticulous, colorful, beautiful collage illustrations, on plain white background for excellent contrast, are wonderful examples of art in science and science in art. Although Jenkins stays true to the colors of the different species of beetles represented, observant readers and viewers will notice the rich patterns and details of the paper used in the artist’s creations. The illustrations are accompanied by captions in a casual handwritten-style font that lends a scrapbook-like quality to the book. A few or many factual tidbits can be enjoyed at each sitting, inviting re-readings, as well as closer studies of the accompanying artwork. The striking cover features two halves of a larger-than-life rose chafer beetle specimen, its legs forming a frame for the title and author text. While many of the illustrations are larger than the actual beetles, for easy study, Jenkins provides silhouettes throughout the book that show the actual size of the beetles featured on the two-page spreads. Other illustrations show certain beetles at actual size, whether small as a dot, or larger than a human hand.
And speaking of actual size, another great Steve Jenkins book is Actual Size. Published in 2004, it features different animals, or parts of them, shown in their true size, illustrated with Jenkins’ signature cut and torn paper collage. Note: although Actual Size is available in E-book format through Wisconsin’s Digital Library, the print format is best for the actual “actual size” experience. This is another great example of the many books authored and/or illustrated by Steve Jenkins, who uses his incredible talents to help others explore the wonders of natural science. The author/artist's birthday is March 31st; celebrate by checking out his work!
You can catch a glimpse of Steve Jenkins’ creative process in “Meet-the-Author” movies and slideshows from Teaching books.net, a resource database available through the APL website, and Infosoup online catalog.
The Beetle Book is recommended for ages 4 and up.
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