Jenkins’ splendid array of beetles will surely produce at least one budding coleopterist.
The colors and patterns of this ubiquitous insect (one out of four creatures on the planet is a beetle, Jenkins tells readers) are fascinating, as are the details about the various adaptations that beetles have made over millennia in response to their environment, diet, and predators. “Perhaps the innovation that has been most helpful to the beetle is its pair of rigid outer wings.” Beautiful book design and a small but clear freehand-style type contribute to readers’ appreciation of the elegant structure and variety of these creatures. Deep, bright hues in the torn-and–cut-paper–collage illustrations set each beetle with its own singular pattern and colors against generous white space. Actual-size silhouettes allow the detailed, larger illustrations to be matched with a realistic appraisal of each beetle’s dimensions. A list of the several dozen featured beetles along with their Latin names and their principal geographic locations appears on a two-page opening at the back. Only a couple of quibbles: The author’s claim that without the dung beetle “the world’s grasslands would soon be buried in animal droppings” begs for a little further explanation; and the absence of a bibliography seems like an oversight.
Otherwise, distinguished both as natural history and work of art. (Nonfiction. 7-12)