Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle book cover image

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle

  • 1695

By: Cheryl Bardoe / Illustrated by: Alan Marks

Dung is a precious pile of food and drink for these beetles.

Simple science text and dramatic illustrations give a close-up view of the fascinating world of the dung beetle. When an animal lightens its load, dung beetles race to the scene. They battle over, devour, hoard, and lay their eggs in the precious poop. Dung is food, drink, and fuel for new life—as crucial to these beetles as the beetles are to many habitats, including our own.

Back matter includes instructions for finding dung beetles, fun facts, glossary, and a selected bibliography.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Cheryl Bardoe, author

Cheryl Bardoe is the author of two Orbis Pictus Honor books, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age and Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas, as well as The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur: A Prehistoric Tale. She lives near Hartford, Connecticut.

Read more about Cheryl Bardoe.

Alan Marks, illustrator

Alan Marks began his career illustrating for magazines and newspapers in England. His first children's book Storm, written by Kevin Crossley Holland, won the Carnegie Medal. Alan now illustrates a wide variety of subjects, from nursery rhymes to war poetry. He is the illustrator of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book A Mother’s Journey, Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, Planet Zoo, The Spirit of the Forest, Little Lost Bat, and more. Alan lives in an old house in the Kent countryside with his wife and two daughters.

Read more about Alan Marks.

Awards & Honors:

  • Cook Prize Honor Book
  • John Burroughs Riverby Award for Young Readers
  • AAAS's Science Books & Films Best List
  • NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Animal Behavior Society Outstanding Children's Book Award
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Despite its slightly unsavory habits, this important beetle deserves a chance to shine.

Bardoe eases into discussing dung by mentioning that an animal, somewhere in the world this very second, is "lightening its load." Beetles flock to one dung pat by the thousands, sometimes getting there a mere 15 seconds after it was dropped. There are three different types of dung beetles--dwellers, rollers and tunnelers--and as Bardoe nonchalantly describes, each "has a different way of enjoying the poop." From rolling smooth balls of dung (and performing acrobatic moves to transport it) to getting into fights to catch the fancy of a mate, these tiny beetles are quite entertaining. Each double-page spread contains text in two fonts: The larger-type text is chatty and informative, while the smaller provides more detail. Both sets are immensely readable. Golden, watercolor sunsets and vast open plains surround the text. Compelling close-ups show deep tunnels and every part of the beetle. The exalted tone of the title and cover illustration of a dung beetle in a triumphant, legs-to-the-heavens stance may seem a bit excessive at first. But no doubt by the end, readers will find it difficult not to join in the adulation.

An excrement-er, excellent-read.

Reading Today

It might seem unlikely that anything could make the humble dung beetle particularly interesting, but this book has done just that. Filled with watercolor and pencil illustrations, the book describes three different types of dung beetles (dwellers, tunnelers, and rollers) and the work they do in removing fecal materials from where they have been dropped. It's fascinating to learn what those beetles do with all the dung they collect and to know that dung beetles make efficient use of the materials that others might disdain. This one is sure to be a hit in the elementary grades because of its subject matter and the sparkling writing that matter-of-factly describes the daily labors of dung beetles and how quickly they can remove dung. The back matter includes interesting facts such as the number of dung beetle species and the observation that they don't eat their own dung.

School Library Journal

While transforming animals’ waste products into life-giving material, dung beetles perform a vital cleaning service to the environment. This overview of the three types of dung beetles sometimes uses fanciful language, e.g., the “dung-pat pie fresh from the oven,” but rather than distract, it lightens the topic. Often arriving within 15 seconds of the “drop,” the dwellers, rollers, and tunnelers compete fiercely for control of the fresh poop. Each species extracts nutrient-filled moisture from the warm material, either on the spot (dwellers) or as they roll it off or push it into tunnels. Vivid watercolor and pencil illustrations show the life cycle of these flying, crawling creatures. The narrative is divided on each spread, with brief text on one page and a more detailed explanation on the other. The lowly dung beetle was exalted in ancient Egypt, and its vital role in nature is beautifully recognized once again.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Somewhere in the world right now an animal is lightening its load," begins this informative and self-aware introduction to one of nature's unsung ecological heroes. Bardoe describes the energetic rush of dung beetles just after an elephant has, um, provided for them, outlining the difference between dwellers (who "dig right in"), rollers (who roll dung balls away), and tunnelers (who dig down below the pile). The book also covers reproduction and growth stages and briefly notes the Egyptian celebration of the insects as scarabs. The book could use some more detail (it never states how big dung beetles can get, for instance, or how long they live), and the simple main text and more informative secondary texts aren't well differentiated. It's still a useful and lively overview, though, and it's enhanced by Marks' watercolor and pencil illustrations, which imbue the dung beetles' world with vitality and imagination: clever cutaways revealing the underground world of the tunnelers are set against the backdrop of grasslands populated by trundling elephants and graceful giraffes. End matter offers brief information about how to find dung beetles, some additional facts, a glossary, and a short bibliography.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-554-5

ISBN: 978-1-58089-555-2

ISBN: 978-1-60734-726-2 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-620-3 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 32
9 x 9

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
Reading Informational. Grade 2. Standards 1, 3-8, and 10.
Reading Informational. Grade 3. Standards 1-5, 7, 8, and 10.

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
Get the Scoop on Animal Poop!
The Beetle Alphabet Book