A book to hold and cherish – it is a very tangible experience
According to the frontispiece, Bartholomew Cuttle got this book when he was 9 years old and it passed into his son Darcus’s keeping when he was 13, I’m guessing at the end of the Beetle Boy Trilogy. At round about the same age as Bartholomew (I was 8), I pinned my first insects and discovered the Dr Dolittle books, both events that shaped my life significantly, engendering as they did, a life-long love of Nature.
If someone had given me Maya Leonard’s latest offering, The Beetle Collector’s Handbook then, and not now, I would have been over the moon and have immediately rushed off to read it cover to cover in one sitting, which is pretty much what I did, and, how I felt, when it arrived in the post at work a couple of weeks ago 😊 As you may have guessed from the above, I am a great fan of this, the latest outing by Maya Leonard. Despite the frontispiece, the artificial but subtle signs of aging and loving usage, and the connection with the Beetle Boy novels indicated by the fictional, annotations* by Darcus and his friends, this is not a work of fiction.
Fantastic Silphid with extra annotations
Neither is it a text-book or a manual. So, what is it exactly? It’s instructional, educational and, very importantly, fun. So, what do I mean by instructional. I have, for example, written about the history of the Pooter which I consider educational, whereas, The Handbook shows you how to make your own, hence instructional.
Everyone needs to know how to make a Pooter
Keeping proper records is very important.
Also instructional is the advice on how to record your observations. In terms of education, you are regaled with salient facts and figures about a number of beetles, albeit only a tiny fraction of those that have been described by entomologists, but that in the words of the author are “..the species of beetles that I think are the most surprising, beautiful and impressive…”
Stag beetle, I particularly like the fact that many of the illustrations show you the actual size of the beetle.
Maya, or should that be the fictional author, Monty Leonard, has shunned traditional taxonomy-based listing and instead presented the beetles in a playful grouping of shared traits, skills or appearance, so fun and educational. What really makes this book something very special is the quality of the illustrations by a very gifted young artist, Carim Nahaboo. I can’t praise them enough. Buy the book and enjoy them in their high-quality format and not via my poorly photographed versions.
The Great Diving Beetle – marvellously life-like
This is a book that all primary schools should buy, two copies at the very least, one to subtly place in the library area and the other for use by the staff member tasked with encouraging their pupils to appreciate the wonders of Nature. I also think that secondary schools should invest in a copy or two.
I suspect that not all the fans of Darcus & Co will read this cover to cover, but those that do, will, I am sure, end up studying entomology, perhaps on the new Zoology & Entomology BSc at Harper Adams or on our MSc course 😊
Thank you, Maya, for yet another very enjoyable read. May you long continue to enthrall audiences, young and not so young, with your tales of beetles and their deeds.
M.G. Leonard (2018) The Beetle Collectors’ Handbook, Scholastic Children’s Books, ISBN 978 1407 18566 8
Personally, I would never write in a book, except for my name and the date it came into my possession, I use sticky notes or multiple bookmarkers if I want to highlight a particular section of a book. That said, I am the proud owner of several previously owned books where I derive great satisfaction in reading the comments made by their previous owners especially when they are by entomological and ecological eminentia 😊