Scientist focuses on tiniest topics for children's series

Photos get up close and personal to bugs' small but not-so-private parts

Ever wondered what a flea foot looks like? Or a slug tongue? If you've ever had a hankering to explore the world's small wonders in all their tiny glory, Elaine Humphrey has a couple of books for you.

Called 3-D Lungs and Micro Tongues and 3-D Bees and Micro Fleas, the recently published books are designed for children aged eight to 12 years.

Humphrey, the director of UBC's Biosciences Electron Microscopy Facility supplied magnified images for the books which are written by two Vancouver authors, Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone.

"This project has been great fun and UBC has been very supportive," says Humphrey who describes her work with electron microscopy as "way cool." Spider fangs, ladybug larvae and bee eyeballs--they're hairy!--are magnified up to 4,000 times and can be marvelled at through a 3-D viewer that comes with each book. Readers can amaze their friends with the 48 pages of scientific information that accompanies the 24 viewer cards in each book.

Did you know that butterflies can see ultraviolet light, beetles smell with their feet and horseflies can travel 53 kilometres per hour?

Suggested activities for further investigation accompany the text and a glossary explains everything from phytoplankton to the plague.

Although this is Humphrey's first foray into children's books, she has a good understanding of what captures kids' interest from her years as a biology teacher and her work with the Scientists and Innovators in Schools program.

In addition to insects, the books also take a 3-D peek at plants, sea creatures and human body parts.

Some of the books' photos, blown up to file cabinet size, can be found at Science World and the intriguing images are also used in Humphrey's weekly television show, Small Wonders, on the Discovery channel.

Leeches' mouths, squid suckers and worm butts will be featured in the next book which dares readers to get up close and personal with the gross and scary.

So grab those 3-D glasses, treat yourself and your kids to a mondo microscopic and discover that it's a small world after all.

The books cost about $15 each and are available from UBC Bookstore and other booksellers. A portion of the profits from the books will fund UBC research.