cloth, 238 p., $24
It feels rather strange, and yet somehow refreshing, to be reviewing a garden book without being seduced by all of the usual visual delights — page after page of glorious four-color photographs luring your eye away from the text. Given the subject of this book, you might have expected the author to have taken full advantage of the delicate beauty of these colorful creatures, turning this, too, into a picture book. But no: Sharman Apt Russell wisely concentrates on the story, giving us a fascinating account of the butterfly’s life, with only a few black and white sketches to supplement the facts when necessary.
Ms. Russell writes charmingly and informatively on butterfly mating habits, migration patterns and protective devices, touching practically on every facet of the insect's life — including some rather bizarre behavior that I, at least, found hard to believe. Did you know that butterflies (or rather, caterpillars) are capable of memory? That some male butterflies actually rape the female of the species to ensure procreation? And that males of the Apollo butterfly create a chastity belt for their females to prevent mating with other males? Obviously, with a wealth of information of this kind, this book is not just another pretty guide to start a butterfly garden. After reading An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect, I can see how easy it would be to become obsessed with butterflies.
— Jim Kemper