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STEPHEN AND THE BEETLE by Jorge Luján Kirkus Star


by Jorge Luján & illustrated by Chiara Carrer

Age Range: 2 - 5

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55498-192-2
Publisher: Groundwood

A small boy’s response to a beetle in the garden triggers profound moral questions in this arresting visual tour de force.

When Stephen spies a wee beetle in his garden, he instinctively removes his shoe and raises his arm to crush it. Oblivious to its impending demise, the beetle goes “on about its business.” Then Stephen pauses and wonders where the beetle is going and what it is doing. He muses, “If I drop my shoe…the day will go on just the same, except for one small thing.” Instead of killing the beetle, Stephen lays his head on the ground and observes it. Up close, the beetle resembles a “terrible triceratops” poised for attack. Then the beetle seems to remember something and walks off. This simple yet powerful life-or-death drama between the boy and the beetle is vividly captured in Carrer’s striking, highly original acrylic, ink pencil, oil pastel and collage illustrations. Using naive outlines, Expressionistic color washes, open spaces and constantly changing perspectives, she creates tension between the aggressive boy and the passive beetle. Initially Stephen dominates the page, but following the existential moment of choice when he realizes the consequences of his intended action, the beetle becomes the visual focus, eventually assuming gargantuan proportions during their eye-to-eye standoff.

A memorable lesson in mindfulness. (Picture book. 2-5)