Judy Burris and Wayne Richards,
The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs

Storey Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-1603425636

This is a beautifully illustrated and highly informative book about insects and spiders. Aimed at nature-loving children of eight and above, it is full of guidance on things to look out for in the garden. There are clear explanations of the differences between types of insects, and good summaries of their life cycles. Every page has stunning photographs showing each stage of the metamorphosis of the featured creatures, and detailed descriptions to help the young bug-hunter identify them. Intriguing facts abound: I certainly never knew that fireflies glow even in their pupal stage, or that some grasshoppers spit a brown digestive liquid when threatened. The comparison guides at the end are excellent: a double-page photographic spread each for eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. The importance of habitat preservation is highlighted, and there are ideas for how readers can help make their family gardens insect-friendly.

The American coverage of this book, which is evident from its title, unfortunately reduces its relevance to a British audience. Several of the creatures featured are named differently in the UK; more importantly, a significant proportion are not to be found here. It may still fulfil a function for keen insect-lovers, because of its clarity of presentation, and its incredible photographs.