The Trouble With Ants

Illustrated by Katie Kath (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).

How I Came to Write This Book:

Nora appears first as a minor character in the Mason-Dixon series: the sensible, serious, scientific girl whose passion is the study of ants. Over breakfast with my editor, Nancy Hinkel, in New York, she happened to mention, “You know, I could use a book about a girl with an ant farm.” So I sat myself down and started writing this story. Of course, I had to get an ant farm of my own for research, and I had a lot less success with mine than Nora does with hers. Ants can die at quite an alarming rate! But I probably didn’t give mine as much loving attention as Nora would have done.

Curriculum Guide for The Nora Notebooks

Published: 2015

The Trouble With Ants


Fourth-grader Nora Alpers is determined to defy the odds in this entertaining tale, first in the Nora Notebooks series. The youngest child of scientist parents, Nora wants to follow the path where experimentation and data govern decisions. Utterly devoted to her colony of pet ants—“She was probably already the leading 10-year-old expert on myrmecology”—she records ant facts and experiments in her notebook, attempting to capture the world record for youngest published author in a science journal. When Nora brings her ants to class, she is shocked by the hostile reactions of her classmates, who will spar over their love for cats and dogs but have no use for ants. In drily funny writing and b&w illustrations, Mills (the Franklin School Friends series) and Kath capture Nora’s delightful enterprising and willingness to push the boundaries—sometimes (she knows the limit when it comes to sitting with the boys at lunch). Nora’s genuine love for ants will resonate with children who have a passion for something out of the ordinary.
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Readers will be drawn into the story by the sincere and realistic characters Mills has created, as well as the pleasing and appealing illustrations found in every chapter. Patrons will be anxiously waiting to find out what the subject of Nora's next notebook will be.
-School Library Journal

As always in this author’s school stories, the idiosyncratic characters are believable and the school life, realistic. . . . Middle-grade readers will hope for more Nora Notebooks, soon.

The bright and charming Nora in this series starter displays independent thought, vision, and passion, while letting the reader know—through her journal and her assigned persuasive speech—that science is unassailably cool.