Monday, September 28, 2015

The Trouble with Ants

The Trouble with Ants (The Nora Notebooks #1)
by Claudia Mills; illus. by Katie Kath
176 pages; ages 7-10
Knopf, 2015

I love ants - so I could not wait to get my hands on this first in a new series by Claudia Mills. Because who can resist a story about a fourth-grade myrmecologist which features loose ants, a skunked dog, and that dreaded assignment to write a persuasive essay.

The book begins: "Nora Alpers woke up early on New Year's morning and reached for the handsome, leather-bound notebook she had gotten for Christmas." She could use it for a diary, suggests mother. She could write stories in it, suggests her sister. She could write poetry in it, suggests her brother.

But no - Nora plans to scribble interesting facts about ants. Right now, in fact, she's investigating whether ants dig faster in wet sand or dry sand.

I love that chapters end with ant colony observations. I love that random animal behavior facts show up in unlikely places - like how fourth-graders sort themselves into various groups in the cafeteria. And I love the details about making your own ant farm using ants from the back yard (don't do this with fire ants!). Mostly I love that author Mills doesn't shy away from complex language. She calls ant scientists by their name and figures that kids will figure their way through all five syllables.

Oh yeah - and there's a real story going on, too, in spite of the ants. But....will Nora submit a paper about her ant research to Nature? Will she solve the mystery of disappearing ants? And will she be able to convince her friends that ants are cool? Find out the answers to these questions and more in your very own copy of the book, because I'll be re-reading mine.

IF you've got some ants living around your neighborhood, try out these experiments I wrote up in an article for Ranger Rick back in 1998 called "Invite Ants to Lunch".

 Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review from ARC provided by Blue Slip Media.


  1. Looks like a great new series that might be good for a new MG reader. Thanks for featuring on one I hadn't heard of yet.

  2. A skunked dog ... #snort #pinchesnose This sounds like a really fun story for this age group. It's great that it's a series, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I'm not fond of ants, but this sounds like fun. And how cool that you had an article in Ranger Rick about ants!

  4. Your sure make this book sound enticing. I will check it out. I like that I always learn something from your posts. I had no idea there was a word for those who study ants. Thanks, Sue.

  5. I think I know a young reader who would squee over this book! It sounds like just the thing. Thanks for the recommend, and happy reading!

  6. Ooh, a girl scientist! I love how Nora decided on what she wanted to use her notebook for, despite everyone's suggestions. She seems like a great character.