Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lucy and Battle Bugs

28686880Cecil, Randy. Lucy
August 2nd 2016 by Candlewick
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In picturesque Bloomville, a small white dog named Lucy lives in a cardboard box in an alleyway. She has a daily routine that involves going across town to get a piece of sausage that drops down from a window on a string. The little girl who provides the breakfast is Eleanor, whose father works in a grocery store but dreams of being a juggler but who freezes in front of crowds. Lucy's day continues with activities and daydreaming of her life before she because homeless. Eleanor's father tries repeatedly to juggle in front of people, but it isn't until Lucy distracts him on stage that he is able to be successful. In the end, Lucy finds a home with the attentive Eleanor. 

This is an unusually formatted book. It is essentially a picture book, in that each page has an illustration and two or three sentences of text. It is also 144 pages long. This makes it reminiscent of some older books, like Godden's The Story of Holly and Ivy (illustrated by , not the one illustrated by Barbara Cooney) or Heide's The Shrinking of Treehorn. The black and white line illustrations are even somewhat similar, although because of those books I was expecting small pops of red in the scenes, and those never appeared! The length makes it possible to give us several days of Lucy's life, which have a pleasant and predictable rhythm, which makes the change in that rhythm all the more surprising. 

This is a book about longing. Lucy longs for a home, Eleanor longs for a dog, and her father longs for a career as a juggler. They all want something different, which makes this achingly bittersweet. I don't know if this will be readily apparent to the average six year old reader, but parents and teachers will certainly pick up on the theme of shattered dreams. This theme might well make this book one that resonates on a deep level with children. I foresee a lot of web searches in 30 years for "that long picture book with the little white dog and the father who juggled snow globes"!

28256462Patton, Jack. The Snake Fight (Battle Bugs #8)
July 26th 2016 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Max has made a soap box derby car that looks like a snail, but is apprehensive about competing with it, since it has no brakes! Of course, he suddenly gets whisked to Bug Island, where he has an even scarier problem to solve-- Mexican worm lizards are attacking his friends, the Battle Bugs. Bugs are being hauled underground and never seen again! The team, headed by the titan beetle Barton, set off to rescue the firefly Glower from the snakes. When he returns from Bug Island, Max realizes that racing his soap box car can't be any more frightening than what he has just experienced!

This is a great series for beginning readers who like a lot of action packed into their stories. There are a lot of different bugs and other creatures working together, and I liked that there was information about them scattered throughout the story, as well as some information at the end of the book. "Bioluminesence" is not exactly a vocabulary word for your average first grade student, but when it is worked into the story to explain why glower glows in the dark, it is certainly a concept that children will understand! 

The draw of these, of course, is the wandering about in caves with bugs that are Max's size and talk to him. There is a lot of fighting, and occasionally the bugs gets hurt, but Max always comes out unscathed. There is a comforting rhythm to these that make the series appealing-- Max travels to the island, encounters a problem, has difficulty solving it, eventually does, and returns home. 

This would make a great animated series for Saturday Morning Cartoons!

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