The Bug Scientists

image of the book's cover, which has a picture of a scientist with two cockroaches on his faceQL 467.2 .J33 2002.  Q is science, QL is zoology.  QL 461-599.82 is insects, QL 467.2 is juvenile works. .J33 2002 allows juvenile works on insects to be grouped alphabetically by author within this class (this is known as the cutter, and it is a code for the author’s last name and year of publication).  The Bug Scientists was a Junior Library Guild selection, and a National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Book for Kids (2003).

Series Title: Scientists  in the Field
Author: Donna M. Jackson
ISBN-10: 0618108688 ISBN-13: 978-0618108688
City and Publisher: Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2002
Author’s Website: http://www.donnamjackson.net

Reader’s Annotation: Meet a college professors, a forensic entomologist, a 5th grade Monarch tracker, a Hollywood bug director and an ant guy.  Learn about some of the crazy things bugs can do, and discover how they help humans by keeping us from being knee deep in roadkill.

Plot Summary: The Bug Scientists profiles five different scientists who each use their expertise in a different bug focused occupation.  Along the way the book details some fascinating facts about how bugs help humans, and illuminates some of the exciting adaptations that make bugs unique.  Professor Tom Turpin uses exciting and off-beat methods (including cricket spitting contests) to teach his college students the basics about bugs.  5th grader Jade Then works with her school’s citizen science project, tracking butterflies to help provide valuable data about migration.  Valerie Cervenka fights crime by using her knowledge of bug life cycles to judge the time of death of bodies.  Steven Kutcher wrangles bugs for TV and movies, translating his understanding of their natural behavior into great insect acting.  Ted Schultz studies ants of all kinds, but in particular the South and Central American Attini ant, which farms its own food.

Critical Evaluation: The Bug Scientists is a very informative and engaging book.  It provides information about both scientists and bugs.  The book doesn’t just talk about what scientists do, it also introduces how scientists think.  The bug facts are a good mix between the sensational and the normalizing.  The Bug Scientists is an excellent introduction to entomology, and bibliographical resources at the end provide a jump off point to further study.

Illustrations: The Bug Scientists is illustrated with full color photos and a few diagrams.  The photos are gorgeous and clearly illustrate (and add to) points in the text.  The book does end up feeling a little like a coffee table book for children however.

Reading Level/Interest: 8 & up
Curriculum Ties: Entomology, life cycles, scientists/careers, the natural world, bio-diversity
Booktalking Ideas: Bring in some bugs!

Challenge Issues: The forensic scientist section is a little gruesome.  It does contain a warning that it “may be hazardous to your lunch.”

About the Author: Although her original intention was to become a child psychologist, the wonderful feeling of writing a well-received article lured Jackson away to pursue a degree in journalism.  She has written approximately ten books for children, in mostly science or animal related non-fiction.  More at: http://www.donnamjackson.net/biography.html

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