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On the subject of science ‘Beetle Busters’

From “Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth”/Molly Bang

On the subject of science

Loree Griffin Burns, who writes science books for children, found the idea for her new book not far from her own backyard.

In 2008, tree-killing, Asian long-horned beetles descended on Worcester. Burns, who lives in the neighboring town of West Boylston, attended a community meeting at which scientists laid out plans to identify infested trees and cut them down. At the time she was focused on saving the trees she loved. Soon she started taking notes, asking more questions, and watching as conservation scientists climbed trees searching for the pests.

“Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) surveys the research, much of it in Massachusetts, being conducted on this species of insect that traveled from China to North America inside wooden pallets, spools, and shipping crates.


More than 33,000 trees have been cut down, and scientists predict that it will take until 2018 to completely eradicate the beetles from Worcester County.

Burns, the author of a children’s book about citizen scientists, notes that each of the seven North American infestations, including the one in Worcester, was discovered by a private citizen with no training in entomology who noticed the 1.5-inch-long black and white beetles with blue and white striped antennae and reported the finding.

“Beetle Busters,” with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, is aimed at 10- to 14-year-olds. Yet it is a marvelous primer for adults as well.

Another new science book for children is “Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth” (Scholastic) by author-illustrator Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, an environmental studies professor at MIT.

The earth’s sun is the narrator of this book, written for 4- to 8-year-olds. “Buried Sunlight” describes how fossil fuels (“my ancient buried sunlight”) were formed from dead plants that accumulated for millions and millions of years. As humans burn these fuels, the carbon balance of the planet’s air and water is being changed.


Bang and Chisholm contrast the slow pace of change in the earth’s atmosphere long ago with the rate of change over the past few hundred years since people began burning fossil fuels. “[H]ow many living creatures will be able to adjust to such rapid changes?” they ask.

Each of these two books is part of an ongoing series. “Beetle Busters” is part of Scientists in the Field and “Buried Sunlight” is the fourth book in the Sunlight Series.

Salem Lit Fest

It’s like going to 20 book clubs in a single day. That’s how organizers of the Salem Lit Fest happening Nov. 6-9 describe one of its major events, a daylong series of panel discussions with 20 fiction writers. Julia Glass, William Martin, and B.A. Shapiro are among the authors. Tickets are $45, which includes a boxed lunch. The festival schedule is at salemlitfest.org.

Coming out

 “Hope: Entertainer of the Century” by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster)

 “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” by Rita Mae Brown (Ballantine)

 “The Burning Room” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)

Pick of the Week

Ellen Burns of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends “The Remedy for Love” by Bill Roorbach (Algonquin): “In this harrowing novel set in Maine, Eric, a small-town lawyer, is planning to prepare a gourmet meal for his estranged wife in a hopeless attempt at reconciliation. At the supermarket, he encounters Danielle, who doesn’t have enough money to pay for her groceries. As a snowstorm forces them to seek shelter in a remote cabin, they slowly learn that neither of them is really who they say — or think — they are.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@ yahoo.com.