This is a book review...
A Dazzle of Dragonflies, by Forrest L. Mitchell and James L. Lasswell, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX. 224 pp, ISBN- 1-58544-459-6. 2005.
It is refreshing to stumble upon a book that I didn’t know existed, and to be so pleased with the contents. A Dazzle of Dragonflies (perhaps equal to a squadron of skeeters, a flock of gulls, or a an encampment of entomologists?) is dazzling, as the authors have incorporated a LOT of beautiful images from their work with scanning live Odonata, field-based images, and wonderful abstractions of dragonfly morphology. This is a book by, and for, lovers of Odonata (ouch, that sounds a bit kinky). Whether you are a long-time Odonatologist, or a beginner, this book will appeal to you. Besides presenting a lot of information, ranging from dragonfly folklore (something that I have been wanting to see), to natural history, and to digital scanning, the images accompanying the text are simply wonderful. The many large and colorful photographs in this book say “PUT ME ON THE COFFEE TABLE” – and if there was ever a “coffee table” insect book, this one fits right there. To see several pages pleasingly bordered with full-color scans of the butts of skimmers is something to behold.
A Dazzle of Dragonflies is pleasingly laid out, with lots of useful and interesting information on biology, life history, folklore, evolution, collecting, and rearing, with the experiences of the authors well-intertwined into the text. This is obviously not a field guide, nor does it purport to be one. However, the authors do survey the various families and genera of dragonflies in the US, particularly those found in Texas. They provide information of collecting and preservation, as well as how to study them. You can read on how to plan a water garden for Odonata, based upon the authors’ own experiences. You can read on how to photograph them, and you can find out how they do their incredible scans. This is not a run-of-the-mill Odonata book—on a cold winter day in December, the vivid photos almost seemed like would fly off the pages.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for the Odonata enthusiast, something for a library for a nature center, or heck, to splurge on yourself (why not?) – I recommend that you buy a copy of A Dazzle of Dragonflies before it becomes some rare book that nobody has in stock! For $39.95, you will be rewarded with some of the finest dragonfly imagery that I have seen in book form. You can order it online at http://www.tamu.edu/upress/BOOKS/2005/mitchelldragonflies.htm