Ten-year-old Harvard narrates this gentle, engaging story. His medical doctor dad made a huge mistake at work which cost the life of a baby. Dad quits being a doctor to try and recover from the tragedy.

He takes Harvard and younger brother Roger to spend the summer at Kettle Hole, Maine where he grew up. Mom stays home for her work and the boys miss her a lot.

It helps to have a summer project like making an ant farm. Harvard with the help of his maybe new friend, Nevaeh, do most of the work to get it started. Questions about ants are posted on a white board and they use a non-fiction book called THE NATURAL GENIUS OF ANTS to help with their research.

Answers are found not only about the ants, but about each other and forgiveness.

Harvard has a fun sense of humor that often plays off words and their meaning. His emotions are all over the place worrying about if Dad is getting better and taking care of the ants. He also has to be the big brother to the very talkative Roger.

The 38 chapters are short and always have you turning the page for more. In our current world it’s nice to have a story where you just feel good after being with this family. They are kind and respectful and I already miss them. A great read aloud full of heart and hope.



  1. Who knew ants were so interesting? I learned a lot about their body structure and habits The next time I see an ant I’ll observe this tiny insect filled with my new knowledge.
  2. Nevaeh, heaven spelled backwards, is the only daughter of a boyhood friend of Harvard’s dad. She loves to write poetry and her special way makes Harvard happy. Together their bond grows in a short time and doing so they help each other. A memorable pair of characters.
  3. Five-year-old Roger is the kind of little brother you want. He’s funny in his own way and his child like way of seeing the world will make you laugh.
  4. Harvard’s middle of the night talks with his mom lead to special insights about the family. She’s a strong presence even when far away.
  5. I’ve never been to Maine. As Harvard points out, their license plate has the word vacationland across the bottom. A vacation in Maine sounds perfect after reading THE NATURAL GENIUS OF ANTS.


Betty Culley is the acclaimed author of the middle-grade novel Down to Earth, which received a starred review from Booklist, calling it “captivating,” and the YA novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, which was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick and an ALA- YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee. When writing The Natural Genius of Ants, Betty kept an ant farm and cared for a carpenter ant queen. She’s worked as a pediatric nurse and lives in a small town in central Maine. You can find her online at


I received access to a digital arc for my honest review.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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  1. Sounds an enjoyable read! Insects are fascinating, and although having an ant farm would not be on my wish list, I can see the fascinating for kids, Thanks for the review!

  2. carolbaldwin says:

    This does sound enjoyable. Ants are amazing–they’re pretty strong characters themselves. Cool that the author incorporated science into this novel.

  3. A vacation to Maine does sound lovely. Hope your last few weeks before summer break are fairly calm!

  4. Wow, this sounds like a great read. Have always founds interesting, I love that the author focused on the ant farm with lots of details. Wish my nearly 5 -year-old nephew was old enough for it. Will bookmark it for later.

  5. This sounds great. Interesting that a parent has such a difficult time, and it changes everything for the family. We don’t see that often in middle-grade. I’ll be looking for this one. Thanks for the great review.

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