cover image The Natural Genius of Ants

The Natural Genius of Ants

Betty Culley. Crown, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-17577-4

After 10-year-old Harvard Corson’s doctor father makes a mistake that results in an infant’s death, he is sad all the time, seldom leaving the apartment until he decides to visit his hometown. Harvard’s Dominican scientist mother is too busy with research to go along, so Harvard, his five-year-old brother Roger, and their father rent a house deep in the woods of Kettle Hole, Maine, from a childhood friend of Harvard’s father who’s struggling to pay his late wife’s medical bills. Hoping to lift his dad’s spirits, Harvard begins a project studying ants; his father enthusiastically builds an ant farm, but when the ants he orders arrive dead, Harvard solicits the help of newfound friend and remarkable poet, 10-year-old Nevaeh, to find new ants. The initially dark slice-of-life story gets lighter as Harvard’s father steadily improves and Harvard encounters wonderful people and landmarks in Kettle Hole. Cully (Down to Earth) deftly parallels Harvard’s father’s progress and the evolution of the ants they observe. Humor, often stemming from Roger’s lively antics, is balanced with serious, thoughtful moments in this hopeful story that explores the reality of hardship and mistakes amid themes of forgiveness and resilience. Ages 8–12. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (May)