The best books about beetles

2 authors have picked their favorite books about beetles and why they recommend each book.

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By Elise Broach, Kelly Murphy (illustrator),

Book cover of Masterpiece

A middle-grade novel about an artistic beetle? Sign me up. This delightful story of a talented beetle named Marvin, his human friend James, who work together to help the Metropolitan Museum of Art recover a stolen artwork is delightful, thrilling, and heartwarming. It’s not always easy to have (or not have) artistic talent!

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with art since I was a kid. When I look at art, I see stories, not just about what I’m seeing, but about what it was like when the painting was created: was the artist tired, grumpy, frustrated? Why’d they paint it the way they did? Sadly, my artistic talent is limited, but fortunately, I can tell stories. After visiting William Orpen’s painting of Mona Dunn at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, I couldn’t help wondering why he made her look so pensive. The only way I could answer that question was by writing my own story about Mona and the other paintings in the gallery!

I wrote...

The Frame-Up

By Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Ian Schoenherr (illustrator),

Book cover of The Frame-Up

What is my book about?

There’s one important rule at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery—don’t let anyone know the paintings are alive. Mona Dunn, forever frozen at thirteen when her portrait was painted by William Orpen, has just broken that rule. Luckily twelve-year-old Sargent Singer, an aspiring artist himself, is more interested in learning about the world behind the frame than in sharing her secret. When Mona and Sargent suspect shady dealings behind the scenes at the gallery, they set out to uncover the culprit and find a way to save the gallery—and each other—before they’re lost forever. 

Booklist said, “This chapter book’s most memorable element is also its most unusual: the imaginative conviction that art is alive.” Includes images of the real paintings featured in the book.

Steve the Dung Beetle on a Roll

By Susan Stoltz, Melissa Bailey (illustrator),

Book cover of Steve the Dung Beetle on a Roll

Who doesn’t love a book about poop... Steve the Dung Beetle rolls this ball of dung past all the animals on the Savanah and along the way he teaches them why the dung beetle is so important to the environment. The illustrations are just fabulous and zookeepers write about the more endangered animals mentioned in the book. But I think the biggest plus are the poop jokes on the back of the book. Guaranteed laughs...

Who am I?

I am a chocolate loving writer, goat yoga enthusiast, and author of several successful children’s books specializing in early learning, along with an award-winning line of gratitude coloring journals. I hope to inspire a love of reading through education and laughter. My latest book, Gomer the Gassy Goat has sold over 21,000 units since 2021, and was recently referenced in The New York Times about the importance of using humor in books for kids to inspire a love of reading. “Not every book has to reach a lesson. Sometimes it can just be fun.” - Mr. Price

I wrote...

Gomer the Gassy Goat

By Hayley Rose, Jungle Bright Studios (illustrator),

Book cover of Gomer the Gassy Goat

What is my book about?

Gomer is a happy, silly, inquisitive goat, but he has one problem... he's a gassy goat. How will this affect Gomer's day? Follow this lovable character to find out in this humorous, build-upon, tongue-twisting story about a goat who farts a lotWhether he is making silly faces or farting during goat yoga, Gomer the Gassy Goat will have you laughing out loud before you can say, "Trendy-bendy, nosy, noisy, smiley, smelly, classy, silly, sassy, gassy goat!" 

Gomer the Gassy Goat helps to build language skills and inspires a love of reading through humor. Fun goat facts included.

Empire in Black and Gold

By Adrian Tchaikovsky,

Book cover of Empire in Black and Gold

Ten glorious books about deceitful spiders, brave dragonflies, and steadfast beetles. In a world where people possess the traits of different insects, the wasps are expanding their empire. One lone beetle decides to challenge them. Shadows of the Apt turns traditional fantasy on its head by bringing together a whole new set of protagonists - Mantis who are skilled swordsmen beyond compare, Spiders who can craft deceitful webs of intrigue, Ants who can operate within a hive mind, and the like. The storytelling is unique for never before have there been characters like this, on a scale as massive as the insect kingdom.

Who am I?

I've been passionate about Fantasy ever since I found a used copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles in a second-hand book store in India. I was 10 years old and immediately fell in love with the idea of fantasy worlds with magic and dragons. Soon after I read Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, Piers Anthony, RA Salvatore, Edgar Burroughs, and a host of other writers from the 1980s. What I like about the books I've chosen is that these characters are memorable. They are stories that can be re-read because the plot doesn't feel like rehashed tropes. The uniqueness of the settings, the challenges they face, and the solutions they engineer are what make them worth reading.

I wrote...

Keep Calm and Go Crazy: A Guide to Finding Your Inner Hero

By Rohan Monteiro,

Book cover of Keep Calm and Go Crazy: A Guide to Finding Your Inner Hero

What is my book about?

He had it all: a spot on the couch, a bunch of friends, and a semi-decent-paying job... What more could anyone want? But when an unexpected offer took him to Dubai, Rohan realized he was completely clueless about how to survive. And when he found the girl of his dreams, survival was no longer an option. He needed to discover the hero within him, and he was buried way too deep. In a journey across mountains, rivers, and jungles, with half-baked plans and misadventures, Rohan reinvents himself in the pursuit of true love and along the way inspires us to discover our true selves.

Beetle Boy

By M.G. Leonard,

Book cover of Beetle Boy

Technically, Beetle Boy is not told from an animal’s POV (or even a beetle’s POV for that matter), but an important part of the main human character’s journey is that he learns how to understand what the beetles are saying. Young people have a special ability to communicate with animals, and because you are reading this, it is highly likely you are one of those. So, please enjoy this super fun, heartwarming tale, and be encouraged that if you think you understand animals—you probably do. Conversely, if you think I am ridiculous, then I suggest you learn how to listen to animals and minibeasts as soon as possible. You don’t want to become one of those adults Roald Dhal calls “stodgy” now do you?

Who am I?

I live in Nairobi, and my first book, Warrior Boy, is set here in Kenya. I live in a house that used to be an animal foster home. The previous owner left, but some of the non-human residents remained, including a gazelle, 25 tortoises, six cats, two dogs, a monkey, a snake, some fish, guinea pigs, and chickens. They all have such diverse personalities, and my children and I will often amuse each other by performing whole scenes involving the various animals and their voices. I could not help but write my next book, Forever Home, from their perspective. I hope you enjoy my book recommendations, all of which have helped me write my book. 

I wrote...

Warrior Boy

By Virginia Clay,

Book cover of Warrior Boy

What is my book about?

Ben and his mother, a documentary filmmaker, are embarking on a trip to his father's homeland of Kenya. Ben is terrified he won't be accepted by his estranged Maasai family, particularly as he has a crippling and shameful fear of blood. But when he arrives, he finds there is a lot more at stake than his pride... In a stunning, atmospheric adventure, Ben embarks on a journey of self-discovery as he sets out to claim his true place in the world.

How to Tell If You Are Human

By Jessy Randall,

Book cover of How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems

This book will challenge your notion of what a poem is or can be. Let it. Subtitled “Diagram poems,” these works mix both word and illustration to get at their playful effects. The illustrations come from “found” or ephemeral sources, e.g., a manual on textiles, or a guide to common beetles of North America, or a grammar on computer languages, or the layouts of American playgrounds. The interplay in the poems creates a wonderful uncanniness. The friction, say, caused when you read “You are special” next to a few numbered puzzle pieces in Figure A. and “Everyone is special” next to a completed puzzle in Figure B, and yet when you try to superimpose the one on the other, you realize that some of the pieces have had to adjust themselves to fit the whole. The sudden epiphany is: How special is anyone? And yet answering that question…

Who am I?

As a child I did not enjoy reading of any kind, detested English class, and loathed poetry in particular. I simply couldn’t comprehend what relevance poems had to my life. Then, while living overseas, in my mid-twenties in a country in which I didn’t speak the language well and had no friends, I took refuge in an English-language bookstore. There, I would find the slimmest books I could find, which happened to be poetry collections, and I’d pull one down hoping for commiseration. At some point, I realized that I could make certain friends with certain poems. Twenty-five years of growing friendships later, now I read and write poetry for a living.  

I wrote...

Poetry: A Survivor's Guide

By Mark Yakich,

Book cover of Poetry: A Survivor's Guide

What is my book about?

I wrote the first edition of this book to fill a gap in the understanding of poetry. When I was a student, I desperately searched for a book that would explore the experience of poetry without obscuring poems in theoretical jargon or dumbing down the practice of writing poetry as mere self-expression (“write what you know”) or exercises in beauty (“a poem is a painting in words”). As I became a poet and professor, I found the need for such a handbook to be even more crucial—especially one that was playful and enjoyable to read!

Updated and expanded, including six new sections, the second edition of Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide probes a range of strategies for inspiring students and aspiring poets on how poetry relates to their lives.

The Origin of Feces

By David Waltner-Toews,

Book cover of The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society

I love this book because it turns everything we think we know about poo on its head. If there was one definitive pathogen-laden substance your mother told you to never touch, poop is it! We’re all naturally disgusted by it. But feces, whether human or animal, are as natural as air, and are absolutely essential for thriving ecosystems, for soil health, and even for climate change. In nature, what’s one species trash is the other species treasure, and no one portrays this better than David Waltner-Toews, as he describes why dung beetles feast on doodies and why some animals eat their own droppings. The planet has a use for everybody’s poo, including ours, so you will have a newfound appreciation of excrement after reading this book. 

Who am I?

Born and raised in Russia, I watched my grandfather fertilize our family’s organic orchard with composted sewage every fall. “You have to feed the earth the way you feed people,” he said, essentially describing what today we call a circular economy. I thought the whole world did the same—until I grew up and learned that most people flush their humanure down the toilet. That hurts the planet’s ecology in multiple ways. It depletes farmlands that must be replenished by syntenic fertilizers which are polluting to produce, and it overfertilizes rivers, lakes, and the ocean, causing toxic algae blooms. I wanted humans to know about People’s Own Organic Power aka POOP!

I wrote...

The Other Dark Matter: The Science and Business of Turning Waste Into Wealth and Health

By Lina Zeldovich,

Book cover of The Other Dark Matter: The Science and Business of Turning Waste Into Wealth and Health

What is my book about?

Grossly ambitious, wildly humorous, and rooted in scientific research, The Other Dark Matter shows how human excrement can be a lifesaving, money-making asset. When recycled correctly, this resource—cheap and widely available—can be converted into a sustainable energy source, act as an organic fertilizer, serve as medicine for antibiotic-resistant infections, reduce toxic algae blooms, and much more. With seven billion of us on this planet, each dishing out a pound of it a day (holy crap!) we excel at replenishing it.

The book implores us to use our innate organic power for the greater good, and for the planet’s sake. And as a health bonus, readers take a deep dive into stool banks and fecal transplants. You will never flush the same way again!

Knee-Deep in Thunder

By Sheila Moon, Peter Parnall (illustrator),

Book cover of Knee-Deep in Thunder

This is a book I reach for if I wake up in the middle of the night, feeling worried or anxious, and I just want to go to another world. The lead character is a young girl who is brave and kind (but not perfect!) who enters a magical world by accident. This world turns out to be made up of many of the elements of our own world that we may not notice—ants, beetles, spiders, and other creatures (not all insects, but these insects are wonderful). They become part of a band of adventurers who face an epic hero's journey with a strong message about how to stand by each other, without being corny or predictable.

This is an older book, published in 1969 by a Native American author who draws on Navajo mythology. I recently re-read it myself, and it was one of those books that I couldn't…

Who am I?

I'm a writer who has mostly written books for adults, as well as plays and screenplays, and June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny is my only book for children (so far). Though I read a lot of adult literature I have never stopped reading children's books. I always keep a "comfort" book on my bedside table for the middle of the night. I think that a really well-written, timeless children's book can teach us, comfort us, and take us on a journey. No matter what age you may be, I hope that you will read these books, or revisit them even if you think you are "too old" for children's books.

I wrote...

June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

By Rebecca Chace,

Book cover of June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

What is my book about?

June Sparrow and her best friend—a miniature pig named Indigo Bunting—have always been fine on their own. June is a fabulously wealthy orphan who's lived in New York City her whole life. On June's twelfth birthday, she suddenly loses her fortune and is forced to move in with an aunt she's never even met in the tiny town of Red Bank, South Dakota. June has to live on a farm with her grouchy Aunt Bridget, who sees her best friend as potential bacon! One day, June finds a mysterious "Penny Book" that her mother used to keep. She's instantly intrigued by what her mother called the Big One, the rarest and most valuable of all pennies. Finding it could be June's ticket back to New York and her old life. But is that what she really wants?

Miss Benson's Beetle

By Rachel Joyce,

Book cover of Miss Benson's Beetle

Margery Benson is a spinster and teacher-turned adventurer. She escapes her humdrum life to pursue a passionate belief in something that takes her to the other side of the world. This book spoke to me because it’s rooted in the bravery of taking that leap of faith that could make or break you. I’ve done that twice in my life, switching careers and continents to achieve my dreams, and both times, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Who am I?

I’m a Scottish writer, based in the USA after living in eight countries. I spent thirty years following work, family, and love, and my experiences seep into everything I write—so there are often elements of travel in my books. Thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and underwent life-saving surgery. That experience gave me a new perspective on the power of the human spirit, and our ability to forge new and unexpected paths, in the face of adversity. I love to read about and create characters that take on life’s challenges and find inner strength they didn’t know they had. That’s why feisty female protagonists appeal to me. 

I wrote...

The Child Between Us

By Alison Ragsdale,

Book cover of The Child Between Us

What is my book about?

This is an emotionally charged story about the unique bond between sisters, the destructive nature of long-kept family secrets, and what it truly means to be a mother. It explores loss, self-discovery, and the beauty in accepting what life delivers even when it is what you least expected—or didn’t know you wanted.

The Child Between Us is a heart-wrenching story about an impossible choice and what it really means to be a mother. Readers who love Kate Hewitt, Jodi Picoult, and Diane Chamberlain will be utterly gripped.

Dear Wandering Wildebeest

By Irene Latham, Anna Wadham (illustrator),

Book cover of Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole

Where to begin? This book covers a wide range of animals found on the African grasslands – impalas, giraffes, oxpeckers, and more – but also includes unlikely (and unseemly) subjects like poop-rolling dung beetles and carcass-cleaning vultures. An especially nice poem, “Tree for All,” written from the tree’s perspective, extolls its virtues by sharing how rhinos, baboons, skinks, safari ants, and other creatures all make use of its resources.

Who am I?

Ever since my parents gave me a copy of Dorothy Aldis’ The Secret Place and Other Poems, I have enjoyed a lifelong love of poetry. Now, as a traditionally-published children’s author, I have had numerous books and poems published over the years, including books that began as poems, like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) and Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021). My poems can be found in various anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children's Books, 2015).

I wrote...

Flashlight Night

By Matt Forrest Esenwine, Fred Koehler (illustrator),

Book cover of Flashlight Night

What is my book about?

Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their treehouse—braver, closer, and wiser than before—to read the books that inspired their adventure.

Galapagos Crusoes

By Bryan Nelson, June Nelson,

Book cover of Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone With the Birds

I can barely remember when, as a child in the mid-1960s, I met a young couple of biologists who had just spent a year living in a tiny camp among the seabirds of Galapagos, devoid of contact with the outside world. Part diary, part behavioral field notes, Bryan’s enduring book, Galapagos, Islands of Birds has just been rewritten and expanded into a brand-new edition by his widow, over 50 years later — a charming and timeless volume.

Who am I?

I was born in Brussels, Belgium, but my parents followed their dream to live a pioneering life close to nature, settling in the Galapagos Islands when I was just two years old. The raw yet gentle nature of these islands, combined with my parents’ artistic eyes and naturalist interests, plus contact with visiting scientists, taught me everything I needed to know to become the islands’ only resident nature photographer and writer at an early age. Although my travels have taken me to the remotest corners of all seven continents, with publications about many of them, Galapagos draws me back like an irresistible magnet. These islands made me who I am; they are my spiritual home.

I wrote...

A Lifetime in Galápagos

By Tui De Roy,

Book cover of A Lifetime in Galápagos

What is my book about?

The latest of my six large-format titles on Galapagos is a compilation of my best photography, above and below water, taken over a period of five decades, from my first (and still best) seabird shots when I was 16 to some of my latest experiments with time-lapse and star trails coursing above sleeping giant tortoises, to name a few. I have arranged those images into a collection of discreet topics accompanied by short, intimate essays describing those special moments and concepts that I have witnessed over the years. There is also an illustrated introduction giving an overview of my personal history.

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