________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 39. . . .June 7, 2013


Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own.

Chris Earley, with Skye Earley.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2013.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $6.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77085-183-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77085-182-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Caterpillars-Juvenile literature.
Caterpillars as pets-Juvenile literature.
Caterpillars-Identification-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4


Dragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live.

Chris Earley, with Rhiannon Lohr, Cameron Lohr and Nathan Earley.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2013.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $6.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77085-186-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77085-185-6 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Dragonflies-Juvenile literature.
Dragonflies-Identification-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4



Watching Caterpillars

There are lots of interesting things to see when watching caterpillars.

Some of them tickle when they crawl on your skin.

You can’t really see their mouths open and close very well because their jaws are underneath their giant heads. But you can watch them eat leaves because the leaves slowly disappear.

If you put one on a stick, its very back prolegs move first, then the next prolegs all the way to its real legs. It’s a very smooth motion. (From
Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own.)

Where to Look for Dragonflies

Look for dragonflies in wetlands such as streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, bogs and swamps. They like wetlands because they spend the nymph stage of their life cycle (see page 6) underwater. But you can also find them in forests, fields and even in backyards.

You can find dragonflies from early spring to late autumn. The time of day is important when looking for dragonflies. Most dragonflies start flying once the sun has warmed the air in the late morning. While most dragonflies like to fly when it is hot and sunny, some species fly well into the evening. (From
Dragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live.)


If these two books were to be found on a restaurant’s menu, they would both be listed under the “appetizer” section. Brief, but quite “tasty”, they are guaranteed to whet youngsters’ appetites and make them want to get to the main course - actually finding caterpillars or dragonflies. Most people have witnessed butterflies and moths fluttering about, but likely only the more observant have ever seen caterpillars, and, even when they have, they might have just considered them to be some sort of “worm”. With Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own, author Chris Earley hopes that these finders of “worms” will be able to move to the next stage, that of knowing what kind of butterfly or moth that caterpillar will eventually become. Earley’s brief text takes readers through defining what a caterpillar is, including its parts, before moving on to its life cycle of egg, caterpillar, chrysalis or cocoon, and adult. He also provides responsible advice on how the book’s readers can find and “raise” a caterpillar. Each of these sections is well-illustrated with colour photos.

     The book’s final pages are essentially given over to a section labeled “How To Identify Caterpillars”. According to Earley:

The pictures on the following pages show some of the most common and distinctive caterpillars. You can use them to identify some of the caterpillars you will find and learn what they eat. There are also photos of the adult butterfly or moth to show what the caterpillar will become.

      In the 14 pages in this section, readers encounter the caterpillars of 38 butterflies or moths. The entry for the Black Swallowtail, which is accompanied by photos of the Black Swallowtail in its caterpillar and adult stages, is typical of the information that is provided for each caterpillar.

Black Swallowtail

The caterpillar can often be found in herb gardens. It is sometimes called the Parsley Worm.

Food Plants: dill, parsley, carrots, Queen Anne’s lace

      On the book’s penultimate page, there a briefly annotated bibliography, “Books About Caterpillars”, that lists three field guides to caterpillars and a book of fiction. An index completes the work.

     Dragonflies, nature’s “helicopters” which dart about, are also something that most of us have observed. Unlike butterflies and moths whose colours indicate that they are different species, to the untrained eye, most dragonflies look very similar, and their differences in size we might erroneously attribute to stages of maturation. Earley begins Dragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live by distinguishing between dragonflies and their closest relative, damselflies. The latter are a lot skinnier and smaller than most dragonflies. As well, “dragonflies hold their wings out beside their body, while damselflies hold their wings together and above their body.” Despite their resemblance, Earley makes it clear that “we will concentrate on dragonflies in this book.” As in the caterpillar book, Early also presents this insect’s life cycle which consists of three stages: egg, nymph and adult. While Caterpillars discussed catching and “raising” caterpillars, the dragonfly is the adult stage, and, consequently, Earley describes a catch and release approach. A pair of facing pages are given over to describing six common dragonfly families: Darners, Clubtails, Spiketails, Cruisers, Emeralds and Skimmers. “These are the kinds of dragonflies that you are most likely to find in North America.” Seventeen pages then constitute a “Mini Field Guide” that features a single Spiketail, eight Darners, four Clubtails, four Emeralds, 16 Skimmers and a single Cruiser. Each entry provides two photos of the dragonfly, with one being a “portrait” of the dragonfly while the second one usually focuses on some distinguishing feature of that particular dragonfly. The brief text accompanying each dragonfly simply provides identifying characteristics. For example, that accompanying the Swamp Darner says:

* very large (huge)
* thin rings on the abdomen instead of spots
*straight, wide, green stripes on the thorax
* blue eyes

     One of the two accompanying photos provides a closeup of the Swamp Darner’s blue eyes.

     Immediately preceding the book’s closing index is “Books about Dragonflies” in which Earley briefly introduces five more advanced books about dragonflies.

     While both books have tables of contents, given the books’ brevity, this feature was really not necessary, especially when the headings are inconsistent. The excerpt above, taken from Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own, merited its own entry in the “Contents” despite its very short length. However, six pages describing the four stages of a butterfly or moth’s life cycle were subsumed under the single heading of “Life Cycle” in the table of contents. Another small shortcoming of both books is that Earley does not indicate the geographic range of the book’s caterpillars/butterflies/moths and dragonflies. Nonetheless, as I said at the outset, both books are appetizers, and in that role they succeed admirably.


Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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