The best books for kids—and adults—who are curious about ants

Who am I?

Hi! I’m a writer of middle grade and young adult novels. My middle grade novels both have science and nature entwined in the plot. Down to Earth, my debut middle grade novel with Crown Books for Young Readers, has space, meteorites, well drilling, and water dowsing in it. In The Natural Genius of Ants, my second middle grade book, there is a kettle hole pond, a shady hemlock grove, a stand of sugar maples, and an ant farm. While writing the book, I kept many ant farms and cared for a carpenter ant queen and her offspring.


I wrote...

The Natural Genius of Ants

By Betty Culley,

Book cover of The Natural Genius of Ants

What is my book about?

Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about all the babies he helped. But since he made the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he is taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer.

In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm–just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness. Luckily, his new friend Neveah has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions!

The books I picked & why

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National Geographic Readers: Ants

By Melissa Stewart,

Book cover of National Geographic Readers: Ants

Why this book?

Just like ants, books come in all sizes! I recommend this slim 32-page book if you want some fun facts and great close-up photos of ants. When writing my own book, I used this book as a resource and for inspiration. There’s even a very interesting section about ant queens and their eggs!!


We're Not from Here

By Geoff Rodkey,

Book cover of We're Not from Here

Why this book?

Hey, this book isn’t about ants! And what are those insect-looking objects on the cover?

Yes, this book isn’t about ants. We're Not from Here is a middle-grade book about a planet of aliens, the Zhuris, that look like giant mosquitos. After Earth is destroyed, the Zhuris are not sure if they want to let a group of humans join them on their planet. 

What I learned from my own firsthand ant research is that ants work together for the good of the colony. This book will have you thinking about how humans work together, and if they do as good a job of it as ants and Zhuris!!


Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants

By Eleanor Spicer Rice, Rob Dunn,

Book cover of Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants

Why this book?

Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants is full of amazing ant facts, but I love it most for its cover, its photos, and the fascinating chapter headings, like "Odorous House Ant," "Big Headed Ant," "Thief Ant," and "Acrobat Ant"! Of course, I am especially happy that the first chapter is "Carpenter Ant," since in my book, Harvard fills the ant farm he and his father build with carpenter ants he finds in the house. 


Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

By Jack Gantos,

Book cover of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Why this book?

This middle grade novel doesn’t have anything to do with ants, but it has everything to do with human behavior. And part of what we do when we observe ants and other living creatures is try to understand our own behavior. Harvard, the character in my book, and Joey both have a problem that makes them act out in ways they can’t always control. In an alternate universe, I’d love to see Harvard and Joey care for the ants in Harvard’s ant farm together.


The Ants

By Edward O. Wilson, Bert Hölldobler,

Book cover of The Ants

Why this book?

Remember when I said ant books come in all sizes? Well, The Ants is a big book, as in large and heavy. It’s also a definitive text that won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1991. I used it for research for my book and it was also the inspiration for the ant book that Harvard and Nevaeh use to study ants in my novel. Edward Wilson was an American biologist, and his specialty was the study of ants. He was nicknamed the “ant man”.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ants, eggs, and insects?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ants, eggs, and insects.

Ants Explore 22 books about ants
Eggs Explore 8 books about eggs
Insects Explore 14 books about insects

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rules, A Boy Called Bat, and The Reason I Jump if you like this list.