I know next to nothing about dragonflies and damselflies but I’ve been very interested in learning more, and when I saw this book available, I was eager to request a copy. The title, Chasing Dragonflies, really spoke to me, and I love the painted rather than photo cover.
Chasing Dragonflies is an apt title as author Cindy Crosby seeks out new dragonfly and damselfly experiences the way bird watchers will take trips with the hopes of catching sight of a new bird to add to their lists.
But Crosby’s journey is almost too personal. It sometimes appears cathartic – particularly as Crosby reflects on her cancer, aging, and family. She nicely ties these thoughts to the peaceful pursuit of dragonflies (and damselflies). And as a memoir, I really enjoyed this book and Crosby’s quite poetic language.
As a “Natural History” (part of the book’s subtitle)? This is a little less clear.
There is some solid science and fact woven into this “Personal History” but it filters out a bit behind the personal accounts and poetic language. We never quite leave the feeling that this is personal reflection, even though it comes from someone with some science acumen.
It’s easy to get hooked on this book. I was drawn in by this passage in Crosby’s Prologue:
I’m inspired by how dragonflies are both tough and fragile; fierce and mild. They each fly for only a few short weeks, yet the species is still around after others have disappeared from the earth. They are cannibals who may eat one another, yet you can safely hold one in your hand. As they transform themselves from water creatures to creatures of the air, they are vulnerable to the predation of frogs or birds. A falling leaf may damage their newly unfolded wings beyond repair. Yet when those same wings harden, they are strong enough to carry many of them thousands of miles in migration.
I often see dragonflies when I’m out in the summertime in my Minnesota stomping grounds. I’ll even see them at times as I sit on my back deck. And always I wish I knew a little more about them. Now I do. Know a little bit more about them. What Crosby does best, though, is to pique my interest so that I might do some further research.
The artwork by Peggy Macnamara is perfect, capturing the tough but fragile nature of the dragonflies and the reflective science of Cindy Crosby’s writing.
Looking for a good book? Chasing Dragonflies by Cindy Crosby is a memoir of a natural science researcher – tough and resilient (both Crosby and the dragonflies she chases).
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History
author: Cindy Crosby
artist: Peggy Macnamara
publisher: Northwestern University Press
paperback, 248 pages