Striking as they are, as mug shots these bug shots don’t work.



Intriguing photographs taken through a scanning electron microscope accompany this detective-themed introduction to insects.

Siy (Sneeze, 2007, etc.) begins with her thesis, pointing out that in the insect world there are both good and bad guys. How can we tell the difference? The rest of this lighthearted survey is organized in chapters devoted to true bugs, beetles, butterflies and moths, bees, ants and wasps and, finally, true flies. In lively, informal prose, she describes some typical insect behavior, describing not just the harm they do but also the good. “Could insects be getting a bad rap?” A last chapter suggests that young people interested in insects can collect them without harming them using a digital camera. Kunkel colors his signature photomicrographs to highlight structures shown, and they are stunning. Each image has an informative label that includes its magnification. The design also includes tiny grayscale images that careful observers may be able to identify as housefly, bedbug, ladybird beetle, nasonia wasp and some kind of moth or butterfly. Readers unfamiliar with giant water bugs and water striders, lace bugs, pepper weevils, carrion beetles and other creatures will be bugged by the lack of unmagnified pictures of most of the species shown.

Striking as they are, as mug shots these bug shots don’t work. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2286-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Pretty but insubstantial.


Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)



Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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