If you are interested in "the small things that make the world go round', this new field guide is a "keeper". Capinera, Scott, and Walker's user-friendly reference covers most of the common "orthops" in the US. That's about a third of the American grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets known in the lower 48. The book relies on 48 excellent color plates to aid identification. How do you use the book? Well, learning about grasshoppers and their kin is a little different from birding. You've got to have a specimen in hand, dead or alive. So, go check out your car's radiator grill for a grasshopper, or turn on the back porch lights to attract some katydids. Okay, with your dried grasshopper or a cricket in a jar you can begin by using the pictorial key. It will help you to learn what suborder and family your critter belongs to. After you do that a few times you'll be able to distinguish a spur-throated from a banded-wing hopper, or a cone-headed katydid from a hump-winged grig. When you reach this stage, which is a no-brainer, you use the book pretty much like a bird guide. Just compare your specimen with the plates. Wing and hind leg color are key characters for grasshoppers, while more subtle features distinguish katydids and crickets. When you find a good match, go to the species accounts to see if the critter occurs in your state. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't. Go back to the plates and keep looking. A lot of species look alike till you get up close and personal, which is the only way you are going to identify most orthops. It's amazing how quickly you can start to recognize species when you know their key characters. It's also quite satisfying. But very few of your hiking friends will believe you when you start spouting off the names of trailside orthops.
I hope that future editions will print the page number of the species account next to the species' picture in the plate. But you can always write the page in, as I do for those species I have identified. Did you ever wonder what makes those chirps and buzzing sounds on a summer night? Well, get out there with your flashlight and a jar and have some fun. There is a wealth of information in this field guide, and it can open up a new world of biological pursuit, whether you're a recreational naturalist or a professional entomologist.