THE NATURAL GENIUS OF ANTS, by Betty Culley, Crown Books for Young Readers, May 10, 2022, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A boy and his family learn about grief and forgiveness while caring for an ant farm in Betty Culley’s The Natural Genius of Ants.
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. Harvard hopes this trip isn’t another mistake.
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. So, the kids have a lot to learn — about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong. —Synopsis provided by Crown Books for Young Readers
I loved Betty Culley’s Down to Earth and was excited to read The Natural Genius of Ants. Culley’s writing is smooth and accessible. She knows her audience and tells her story with a gentle touch.
Culley’s own experiences a pediatric nurse in Maine, and from keeping her own ant farm and caring for a carpenter ant queen helped shape The Natural Genius of Ants, lending an authenticity that might otherwise be missing.
At the center of the story is Harvard, a likeable character who just wants to make sure his dad gets better. Many readers will relate to having a parent experiencing sadness/depression. And Harvard’s doggedness to make things better should resonate beyond his particular situation.
I love the message that grown-ups make mistakes, too, and that the consequences are not always cut and dry.
The Natural Genius of Ants is a heartfelt novel that weaves science into daily life.
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