by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 9
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A sometimes heavy-handed and knowing story about a humble small-town termite who “went against the grain.” A trial to his parents, Roberto “melted over maple.” But he wanted to play with wood . . . not eat it. Pining for bright lights, Bug City, he travels to ”Bug Central Station, in the [city’s] busy, buzzing hive . . . where the other termites wouldn’t bug you.” He lives in a “flea bag” hotel and even rooms with a family of bed bugs for whom “he built . . . their very own beds.” With no luck finding an architecture gig, he meets a sobbing houseless fly and a frantic ladybug that cries, “My house is on fire and my children are gone!” Inspired by adversity he draws plans and soon turns a junk-filled lot into a block of custom housing for his homeless friends. Fame and fortune follow and soon he’s an international sensation and an inspiration to creative young termites everywhere. Printed on slick, thick paper, the book features arresting mixed-media collage illustrations that cleverly employ catalog and magazine photos, wood and cork veneers, blueprints, and touches of gouache. Like Laden’s earlier solo work When Pigasso Met Mootisse (1998) and Private I Guana (1995), this entry is satire-heavy with abundant sight gags and snappy wordplay. There are ample references to skylines (New York’s Empire State Building coexists with the Tower of Pisa, San Francisco cable cars and the Space Needle), news personalities (“Barbara Waterbugs” and “Diane Spider”) and architects (“Hank Floyd Mite” and “Fleas Van Der Rohe”). Fun for those in elementary school who just can’t hold out for the next Scieska and Smith collaboration or who will love to discover the hidden pictures-within-the-pictures. Buy for Laden’s many adult fans or those who particularly admire her wry illustrations for Walter Deans Myers’s new Blues of Flats Brown (p. 121). (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8118-2465-9
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000


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