Monday, April 7, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Bugged: How insects changed history by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Robert Leighton

I am just itching with excitement over Sarah Albee's latest social history book. Her first history, Poop Happened! was a big hit at our library, not only with the kids - quite a few teachers and librarians read it as well.

This book tackles the big effect that tiny creatures have had on world history. It starts out with a preface that gives some general information about the influence of insects and defines important terms. Then the bugfest begins...with hilariously titled chapters, sidebars and text boxes of information ranging from the humorous to the disgusting, cartoons and reproductions of art and photographs, this is a riveting introduction to the role of insects in world history.

Albee explains how insects transmit diseases, the many beneficial bugs that exist, why bugs are so hard to get rid of, and how insects are in every part of our life - from the good to the bad. Then we move on to the really gross bits....DEATH BY INSECT. Mwa ha ha ha. Albee walks the reader through the "big four" of insect-borne diseases and then starts out with the earliest known epidemics and up to the current date. Along the way we learn that insects helped the spread of Christianity, brought about the fall of the Roman Empire, stopped the advance of the Huns, helped Europeans conquer the Americas, and influenced the colonization and economy of Africa. A final chapter discusses how we combat bugs today, the pros and cons of pesticides, and how kids can deal with insects, good and bad. Back matter includes a glossary, further information in books and websites, and sources.

Albee has a conversational, enthusiastic style that will quickly draw in both history buffs and reluctant readers. While they're groaning and gasping over the gross bits, they'll find themselves learning a lot about history and how it's shaped not just by humans, wars, and politics but also by things like insects and climate.

Verdict: This is a great book to hand to kids looking for something engrossing to read, those interested in history, kids who want a fun book to dip into for facts to surprise and gross out their friends, and pretty much anyone who's interested in how the little things in life make a big difference in history. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780802734228; Published April 2014 by Walker/Bloomsbury; Uncorrected proof supplied by author for review purposes; Purchased for the library

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