BEETLE BOY

When young Gregory Samson changes overnight into a giant beetle, it leaves him feeling anything but “snug as a bug in a rug.” Despite Gregory’s insistence regarding the changes that have overcome him, his parents, sister, teacher, and classmates notice no difference. Only his best friend, Michael, actually sees Gregory’s six legs, and helps him to identify himself in a library book as a carabus problematicus, or a ground beetle. Gregory’s family is forced to recognize his insect attributes when, in desperation, he crawls into the corner of the ceiling to cry. They love him anyway, and such affirmations help restore him to human form. Not surprisingly, David (The Good Little Girl, 1998, etc.) lists “Metamorphosis” as his inspiration; Kafka’s tale of insect angst translates splendidly to a story for younger audience. Durand’s illustrations express equally silliness and pathos, making Gregory as endearing as a beetle as he is as a boy. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32549-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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PIGS

Gibbons’s 100th book is devoted to presenting swine in a positive light; she quickly demystifies the stereotypes that cast pigs as smelly, dirty, greedy, and dull. Descended and domesticated from the wild boar, pigs come in hundreds of varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes; in simple language, the book outlines their characteristics, breeds, intelligence, communication, habits, and uses. The author distinguishes the various terms—hog, swine, gilt, sow, boar—while also explaining the act of wallowing in mud. The bulk of the text is characteristically factual, but Gibbons allows herself an opinion or two: “They are cute and lovable with their curly tails, their flat pink snouts and their noisy squeals and grunts.” Pen-and-watercolor drawings show sprightly pigs and a plethora of pink-cheeked children in tranquil farm scenes. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1441-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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