Screenwriter Lannini (Letters to My Angels, Wikki and Blue, 2014) tackles a timeless tale of star-crossed lovers as a mosquito who can turn into a human tries to make peace between her human lover and mosquito family in this screenplaylike children’s picture-book debut.
Mosquito general Tazzi and his wife, Heeleen—the village’s greatest warrior—are delighted to welcome their daughter, Skeeter, into the world. But after a storm, they’re shocked to find that their child has been replaced by a human baby. They soon discover that Skeeter changes into a human girl during hot, dry weather. As an adult, she’s still fascinated by the human side of her nature, and during a period of exploring life as a human, she falls in love with a man named Martin. Later, as a mosquito, she bites her human rival for Martin’s affections, and she tries to convince her parents that she’s as much a human as she is one of their kind. At first, Martin seems to take her condition in stride, but then he decides that he can’t marry a part-time human, leaving Skeeter heartbroken. However, when a group of humans threatens Skeeter’s village, Martin comes through to help save them. The premise of this book is more about identity politics than romance: Skeeter’s desire to become permanently human is certainly driven by her love, but her quest to understand both sides of her nature—and make peace between humans and mosquitos—is also a strong theme. The book’s format leaves much to be desired, though, as it’s more like a storyboard for an animated feature than a simple picture book. The illustrations, with their stylized mosquitos and fun shrinking and growing effects, stand on their own, but the text seems like a synopsis with dialogue added: “In DR. GEEZE’s lab. SKEETER: DR. GEEZE, I want to tell you a secret…I think I’m in love. GEEZE: In love? With whom?” The text is also oddly formatted around the illustrations, sometimes in two or three columns, in order to fit on the pages.
A unique take on the Romeo and Juliet theme with appealing cartoon mosquitos, but its text will likely confuse young readers who are unfamiliar with storyboards and screenplays.