________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 5. . . .October 2, 2009.


Bug Bites: Insects Hunting Insects...and More.

Diane Swanson.
North Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 1997.
63 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55285-169-9.

Subject Headings:
Insects-Juvenile literature.
Insects-Food-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Gillian Richardson.





Like the killer itís named after, an assassin bug hunts for its victims. This true bug creeps close, raises its beak like a dagger, and strikes. Muscular front legs grip the prey tightly until it struggles no more. Then the assassin feeds and slips its beak back into a groove between its legs.

Öone assassin bug can only be seen when it moves. Its sticky body and legs become covered with dust and lint, making it ghostlike. Unlike most assassins that hunt in fields, this one hunts inside houses.

 Drama in the bug world! Author Diane Swanson is a master at bringing the intriguing, awesome details of the animal world to the attention of young readers. This book about hunting insects chronicles the lives and deadly deeds of seven groups of bugs, including dragonflies, robber flies, mantids, wasps, ant lions and beetles. Details focus on life cycles, special adaptations, hunting habits, and, if all of that isnít fascinating enough, dig into the sidebars for more amazing facts. For example, there are thousands of kinds of dragonflies; they have generated superstitions and misinformation based on their habits and appearance; they have been around for millions of years, and they may swarm in huge numbers. Itís easy to see how much research went into this book.

     internal artSwanson uses a lively, inviting writing style to present her information. Language choices will engage young readers:

When the mantid chomps down, it slices easily through the tough outer coat of most insects. It nibbles its prey from end to end, feeding like someone eating corn on the cob. Soon all thatís left are the wings and coat.í

     This is fun to read, and an effortless way to learn.

     Many of the excellent quality, close-up photos were provided by the Royal British Columbia Museum. In some cases, sketches and drawings enhance and extend the text. The layout is uncluttered and pleasing to the eye, with lots of white space to set off the photos and colored background of the sidebars. Subheading choices are appealing: Super Mini Beasts, Copycat Robbers, Artful Ambushers. One sidebar (page 35) features diary excerpts from a childís detailed observations of a mantid egg case hatching. Wonderful inspiration for an activity readers could pursue.

     You can learn about bugs from many sources, but this book with its tight focus on the antics of hunting insects will have you looking at these bugs with new respect.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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