In Search of Goliathus Hercules

Today we are taking part in a blog tour (see detail below).

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus is a middle grade novel that takes the reader in an exotic journey around the world on the hunt for a giant beetle and a young boy’s father.   goliathus-book-cover

This unique tale, set in 1890, captures the time of the late-Victorian naturalists when collecting natural objects was king. Henri, a boy who has been sent to live with his eccentric great aunt, makes the surprising discovery that he can talk to insects. When a circus comes to town – complete with a flea circus – he finds his calling and runs away with them. After traveling a bit, he and his new friends decide to go on a quest for an elusive giant beetle, Goliathus hercules, and at the same time search for Henri’s missing father. Will they succeed or will they be thwarted by a villainous mystery woman in black? What they discover will astonish you.

The story how this book came to be is just as fantastic as the book itself. The author, Jennifer Angus, is known for her graphic designs featuring actual, albeit dead, insects. She was approached by a children’s book publisher to do a picture book, but the project “metamorphosed” into a middle grade novel with one-of-a-kind illustrations based on her art exhibits. Helping with the exotic feel, she did most of her writing while traveling. Anastasia at Booktalking has the full scoop.

As a trained entomologist, I was interested to look at a book for older children that featured insects. What I found was a tale that stretches the imagination and leaves you thinking about the relationship of humans and insects. “Roald Dahl meets Franz Kafka” is how one reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly summarized it.

Are you intrigued? We are hosting a book giveaway for a signed copy of In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus at our sister blog, Growing with Science.

Age Range: 8 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0807529907
ISBN-13: 978-0807529904

Ebooks are available from Open Road Media.

Physical copies are available at Albert Whitman & Company.



 Blog tours are a super way to find new book blogs and read multiple takes on the same book. Hop on over and see what everyone else is saying.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Travels With Gannon and Wyatt

In the first book of a new series Travels with Gannon and Wyatt:  Botswana by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet, you immediately realize you are reading something unique. The book is a fictionalized account of the real life adventures of two real life boys, Gannon and Wyatt Wheeler, traveling to Botswana.

The book has the feel of nonfiction because the text is written as a journal, going back and forth between entries written by both boys. Each boy has his own voice and each tells of the same events from his individual perspective. Factual information about Africa, its people and animals abound. Sprinkled throughout are actual photographs of the boys and of Africa. To make it even harder to tell fact from fiction, the book comes with a DVD interview of the two boys talking about their experiences traveling to Africa to research the book.

As you read, however, it becomes apparent the adventures in the book are fictionalized. The boys would have to be pretty unlucky to encounter all the things that befall them. Starting out with a close call with a mother white rhino that knocks their own mother out of the vehicle they are riding in, the boys run up against everything from frightening giant crocodiles to being held hostage by an angry poacher. Through the book, Gannon and Wyatt experience one harrowing conflict after another.

In fact this intense drama, including graphic accounts of wounded and dying animals, also makes this book a bit difficult to classify as far as intended age of reader. Travels with Gannon and Wyatt:  Botswana just won a silver Moonbeam award in the Best First Book – Chapter Book category. On the other hand, it is listed as young adult at Amazon. I would say probably middle grade based on content. The main characters are supposed to be fifteen, and kids usually like to read about older main characters. It might be appropriate for reluctant readers who like their adventure rapid fire.

What we see in the video trailer is the part of the book that I enjoyed, the flavor of actually being in Botswana.

Doesn’t that make you want to travel, too?

As an aside, the boys, both real and fictional, are homeschooled. If you are interested in finding out more, Reading to Know has an interview with author Patti Wheeler

Reading level: Young Adult (Amazon)
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Claim Stake Publishing, LLC; Har/DVD edition (June 2010)
ISBN-10: 1936284006
ISBN-13: 978-1936284009

Book provided for review.

Edit: This book is nominated for a Cybils in Middle Grade Fiction.

Books For Boys Age 12-13

Are you looking for books for boys ages 12 or 13? I just got a list of favorites straight from the source, boys who love to read. This list is for those that like fiction, particularly fantasy. Next time I’ll tackle nonfiction.

Several of the boys strongly recommended the Ranger’s Apprentice series by Australian author John Flanagan. It is a relatively new, with the first book, The Ruins of Gorlan, released in 2004. This fantasy series is about an orphan named Will who wants to become a knight, but ends up as a ranger’s apprentice instead.

Another favorite series seemed to be James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books. This sci fi/fantasy series is about the adventures and trials of six humans with some bird (avian) DNA. The Angel Experiment is the first book.

The boys had all read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Everyone had opinions about the movie that came out recently based on the first book, The Lightning Thief. Most didn’t like the changes in plot made from the book. Some of the boys noted that later books in the series could be a bit uneven, but all liked the books.

Anne McCaffrey’s classic Dragonriders of Pern sci fi/fantasy series also seemed popular. I remember enjoying those way back in the 1980’s. The first, Dragonflight, came out in 1968.

If you are looking for a gift book, anything by J.R.R. Tolkien seems to have timeless appeal. In particular, his lesser known The Silmarillion seems to be making a comeback.

Do you have any suggestions about other books that should be on this list? What are your favorite fantasy books for tweens?

Little Black Ant on Park Street

As some of you may already know, I studied ants in graduate school and I still find them fascinating. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, the newest installment in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series published by Soundprint. Our family already had several titles from the series that we had enjoyed and we were looking forward to seeing one on ants. Little-black-ant

We were not disappointed. As you would expect with a book labeled with the venerable Smithsonian name, it is a quality nonfiction picture book. As with the other books in this series, it also has a fictional flavor. What do I mean by fictional flavor? The author has created a main character, the little black ant, who experiences rising levels of conflict and finally resolution. Overlaying this rich story is amazingly accurate and up-to-date information about the biology of ants.

The name “little black ant” may sound generic, but it is an actual common name of a species of ant. The choice of this species is interesting because they aren’t the usual fare. The ants are tiny, occasionally considered to be pests, and they don’t have the typical ant lifestyle. For example, the colonies of little black ants have multiple queens, rather than a single queen as many ant colonies do. Tiny might mean they are less noticeable to children in real life, but on the other hand, you have to root for these feisty little ants when a big carpenter ant comes to steal their food.

Janet Halfmann is an experienced writer of children’s books and this is her ninth book with Soundprints. She has done a superb job translating technical jargon into age-appropriate language without losing meaning. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful job she did of this difficult task.

The illustrator, Kathleen Rietz, created big, vibrant scenes to tell the story at another level. The large illustrations are perfectly scaled for holding the book up and reading to a group. Everyone will be able to see the action. In the back is a list of “Points of interest” in the book that identify the elements in the illustrations, such as the type of flower shown.

We read the softcover version, but the book comes in a wide variety of options. Both the hardcover and the softcover are available, with or without read-along CD’s. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with or without a plush toy ant. We have several of the microbooks. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which definitely attracts youngsters.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is a marvelous little book, sure to inspire children to learn more about ants and the world around them. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.

For related activities, try making marshmallow ants and guarding an ant nest at my Growing With Science blog. Here’s more about the biology of the little black ant.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprint (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607270021
ISBN-13: 978-1607270027

This book was supplied by the publisher.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Wild About Nature.