“Readers will enjoy finding the one red stockinged ant that appears on every page and learning about the wonders of our natural world.”
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.
In this quirky book, acclaimed Polish illustrator and author Joanna Rzezak teaches children about life in the forest as seen from the prospective of a procession of ants.
The book opens with a cross section view of an ant hill. There we see the ants in their various chambers: the food storage room where the ants keep the seeds they’ve collected; the compost room where the ants grow mushrooms on rotting leaves; the chamber where the ants “farm” aphids; the egg nests; the room where the queen lays eggs hour after hour; and nearby outside, the burial mound.
Readers learn that ants leave a scented trail when they find food so the other ants can find it, too. “Hmm,” says an ant. “I think I can smell something. Come on, ants. Start walking!”
The expedition begins.
Walking in single file through the boldly illustrated pages, the ants encounter a Roman snail. We learn that it spends its entire life in an area just 20 feet across.
The ants move on, marching through a field of mushrooms, including morels that, “have an unusual shape like a little knobby tree,” straw mushrooms that start out small and round, then open unto an umbrella shape; and chanterelles that look like trumpets.
Further on they encounter acorns, chestnuts seeds breaking out of their spiky green cases, various types of pine cones, and a mosquito.
They pass a pond where frogs rest on lily pads and dragonflies reside. We learn that dragonflies can fly faster than any other insect and can catch mosquitos in mid-air.
A meadow is host to dandelions, ribwort (“you can rub the leaves on insect bites or nettle stings to make them feel better”), wheat, knapweed, and daisies. A grasshopper, we learn, can jump more than 10 feet, 300 times its own size. The caterpillar that will grow into a swallowtail butterfly emits a bad odor to detract predators.
One night an ant falls from high off a tree branch. “. . . don’t worry. It’s very light, so it won’t hurt itself when in lands.” Notes inform readers that lichen growing on the tree is a sign of good air quality. The dots on moths’ wings look like eyes to scare predators away. Owls hunt after dark and talk to each other by hooting.
On the ants proceed, encountering the natural world in its fascinating and varied forms. All is well until they walk single file along the tree branch and up a pink ramp. They hear the knock, knock of a woodpecker, but are blissfully unaware of their peril.
“Yum! We woodpeckers just LOVE to eat ants.”
The author claims that there are 1001 ants depicted in the book. A few readers, perhaps future accountants, may want to confirm the number by counting them all. Most readers will take her word for it and instead enjoy finding the standout red stockinged ant that appears on every page and learning about the wonders of our natural world.