Beautiful Beetles & Twinkie Pie

I read two amazing books this week – one that you can rush out and find at your bookstore or library right now, and one to put on your list for this winter. First, the right-now book…

Loree Griffin Burns is a friend and critique partner, so I’ve seen earlier versions of her new Scientists in the Field title, BEETLE BUSTERS: A ROGUE INSECT AND THE PEOPLE WHO TRACK IT.  First of all, don’t you love the phrase “rogue insect?” It immediately sets me up for a page turner of a mystery, and this book delivers in a big way. I’m always in awe of the way Loree manages to spin such a thoroughly researched work of nonfiction into a book that reads like a thriller, and this book is no exception.

BEETLE BUSTERS tells the story of an invasive species — the Asian Longhorn beetle — and the effect that its appearance has had trees and on the communities that love them. What I love most about this book, I think, is that it’s not just about insects but about people — the boy whose woods disappeared as a result of a beetle eradication effort, and the scientist who stayed out in an ice storm, desperate to learn more about the invaders.  This is a story of about beetles to be sure, and there’s no shortage of entomological details in the text. (Did you know that bug poop is called “frass?” Great, right?) But it’s also a story about geography and forests, scientists and communities, and the reality that sometimes there are no easy answers to the challenges that face our local ecosystems. Truly, don’t miss this one – Loree’s storytelling is smart and compelling, and Ellen Harasimowicz’s photographs are truly stunning. This book is out today, so get thee to your bookstore or library and ask for it.

You’ll have to hold off a bit for the other book I loved this week, but I promise it’s worth the wait.


THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh is the story of Gigi and Didi, two sisters who move from the south so Gigi can enroll in a fancy New York school, study, and fulfill her dead mama’s dreams to study the stars. It’s hard to say too much about this book without giving away its secrets, but I’ll tell you that it’s packed with smart, funny, fully-realized characters. Add a dash of mystery and a collection of quirky, mouth-watering recipes written in a real cook’s friendly voice, and it all adds up to a winner. This one comes out in February, but teacher-librarian friends who will be at NCTE may want to check for advance copies at the Little, Brown booth – I suspect they’ll be sharing a few here and there. Regardless, read this one when you can – it’s warm, wonderful, and perfect for readers who have enjoyed my books and those by Linda Urban, Laurel Snyder, and Cynthia Lord.