A late-blooming urban mosquito meets his country-raised half brother for the first time.
The storyline wanders as aimlessly as a mosquito in the breeze. Last of his 401-sibling family to be born, Dinnn Needles is both puny and so afraid of falling that he walks everywhere—at least until bullies push him into a sewer and he has to shed his beloved but wing-pinning leather jacket to survive. Then he and his clan hitch a minivan ride to the swampy lake where his mother had seen all but one of her first set of offspring eaten by dragonflies. There he meets hulking but friendly Gus, who leads a nighttime expedition past sleeping pondhawks to a carnival. When the outing runs long, Dinnn and Gus are forced to run the dragonfly gantlet. Having acquitted himself nobly, Dinnn rejoins his family for the ride home and learns a family secret (that readers will have known for a while). Ondaatje adds humorous chapter heads like “Crouching Mosquito, Hidden Dragonfly,” a mix of real and fancied mosquito lore, and a natural-history quiz at the end (with answers to be found online). Neither these nor Salcedo’s pictures of pensive, popeyed, pointy-nosed buglets inject enough juice to get this anemic tale off the ground.
A few moments of manufactured drama aside, a ragged chain of set pieces. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)