Sunday, April 21, 2024

Book Review: Insectorama

One of the benefits of having written one or more books is that as an author you are then presented with opportunities to review proposals, manuscripts, and published books by other writers in your realm of expertise. The most recent book to cross my desk in this way is Insectorama: The Marvelous World of Insects, by Lisa Voisard. I could not be more favorably impressed.

Insectorama is promoted as a juvenile literature, and it won the JP Redouté Children’s Book Prize. It is a substantial work of 224 pages, suitable for adults, too. It is as close to a perfect introduction to insects, and their place in habitats, ecosystems, and human enterprise and culture, as I can imagine. The “North American edition” is what I received, a translation from the original French version featuring a European focus. The book is divided into three parts, beginning with a series of portraits of over eighty common insect species found in North America. The second part invites the reader to “Go on, take a closer look!” The third section presents several topics related to the life of insects, their enemies, why insects are disappearing, and how we can mitigate insect decline.

Voisard’s unique and stunning illustrations define the entire work. The renderings are bold and deceptively basic, without sacrificing much in the way of accuracy and detail. Food plants, prey, life cycles, and other context are presented, along with icons for the order the insect is classified under, the time of day the creature is active, and the habitat it occupies.

The only obvious mistake that I found was that the pupa stage, in every species depicted that has complete metamorphosis, was labeled as “nymph.” I suspect this is an error in translation from the French, not a fact-checking oversight. Entomologist Mathilde Gaudrea vetted the text, in fact, along with other experts.

The layout of the book remains its greatest strength. Every page, or every other page, is a different earthtone color, warm and inviting. The contrast with the insect depicted is therefore not stark and overwhelming. You are invited into the life of the creature, the flowers it visits, the aquatic realm it lives in, or the place it perches.

My admiration for this work extends to the marketing campaign surrounding it. I learned of the book from Izzy Krause at Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, working for its client, Helvetiq Publishing, that produced this North American version. The blurb sheet was well done summary of the book and its mission to stimulate readers to view insects in a new and fascinating light.

By sheer coincidence, I am at work on a book that aims to achieve similar outcomes in recruiting new “bugwatchers,” and Insectorama helped me greatly by reminding me of approaches to observing insects that I have long since forgotten because they have become habit. I therefore recommend this book to science translators (science communicators, sci-comm people) as a good refresher when interacting with the public.

With so much sensationalized news, and misinformation about insects in this day and age, it is a delight to find a vehicle with a more subdued approach, that still manages to evoke fascination and excitement, wrapped in a little empathy for the tentative and squeamish among us. I hope it is a blueprint for future authors of natural history books.

Insectorama retails for under $30.00 U.S. It is hardbound, and weighty. I am also likely to consider other merchandise from Lisa Voisard.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very exciting and I would like to read it! I hope I can find it at my library as I cannot afford to buy the book. Thank you for a lovely review.


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