Digital tweaks add interactive features to this edition of an insect ABC (originally packaged in 2007 as a book/CD set).
The 26 alphabetically arranged entrants include such usual suspects as the Ladybug and Praying mantis, along with the less-familiar likes of the Velvet ant and Olive fruit fly. Each gets a close-up painted portrait done in an arbitrary range of styles from photorealism to crayon sketch, a perfunctory rhymed caption—“The inchworm likes to crawl around / and eat leaves every day…”—and, with a tap on the highlighted name, a boxed snippet of explanation or further detail. A menu can be opened on any screen that allows skipping, starting over and replacing the optional audio reading with a self-recording. Problems abound. The Japanese beetle illustrated is either a rare variety or some other sort of beetle. Along with failing to mention that the Inchworm is a caterpillar or that it and the other three larvae included in the alphabetical roster will look different as adults, the author incorrectly claims that Unicorn caterpillars lay eggs. Her observation that a sawfly (Xyelidae) is “like a wasp but not the same” is both unexplained in the verse and contradicted in the accompanying note. She also characterizes collecting Fireflies in a jar as a “fun activity” but neglects to recommend letting them go afterward.
Budding naturalists, even younger ones, can easily find more dependable and systematic guides to their backyard biota. (iPad informational app. 5-8)