Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Un-beatable! The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Line up every plant and animal on Earth ...

... and one of every four will be a beetle.

If ever Nature awarded a Grand Prix Award for design, the winner going away would be the beetle, an oft-maligned species, with a body style that frequently draws yucks! and eeuuuwws!!! from humans for its everyday mini-specimens and which, in its super-sized version, such as the nine-inch titan beetle, is worthy of blood-curdling shrieks.

In what is estimated to be a million varieties, many undocumented, beetles all sport the same standard insect body parts in roughly the same configuration, all possessed of their signature wing casings which protect their delicate wings and provide an often predator-proof armor for their abdomens.

Within that conformation, however, their myriad variations in relative size--from the tiny eggplant flea beetle to the afore-mentioned titan--in antennae, leg adaptations, camouflaged color configurations, and jaw adaptations, from herbivore- to carnivore-friendly, make the beetle one of the most diversified and adaptable of life forms.

Steve Jenkins' forthcoming The Beetle Book (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) takes advantage of this diversification in delicately detailed illustrations which combine photographic detail with brilliantly colored drawings that makes these often shunned animals appear as the splendidly designed creations that they are.

No fiddlehead fern has more delicacy than the appropriately named featherhorn beetle, and no movie monster closeup is more horrifying than the victim's-eye view of the business end--the cruel jaws--of the six-spotted tiger beetle which Jenkins presents up close and personal, ready to crunch its hapless prey. From impressionistic color-blocking worthy of any modern art gallery to plain-Jane gray-brown which blends with bark, their camouflage coats are infinite and their chemical powers amazing, and from the tiniest eggplant flea beetle to the jumbo African goliath, so big it is kept as a pet, beetles can't be beat as wonders of nature.

""A richly varied and visually riveting introduction to beetles, both familiar and strange." says Booklist's starred review. "Distinguished both as natural history and work of art" echoes the starred review in Kirkus.

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