Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reader's Diary #279- Lawrence David (Author) and Delphine Durand (Illustrator): Beetle Boy

It's been ages since I've discussed a children's book, and even longer since I discussed one as fun as this.

Beetle Boy, by Lawrence David and illustrated by Delphine Durand is the kind of story I would have loved as a child and still love to this day. It is the story of Gregory Sampson who wakes up one morning and discovers that he has inexplicably turned into a giant bug overnight. Adding to the mystery; his parents, sister, classmates and teacher don't even notice! Only his best friend Michael can see what has happened and only he helps Michael look for answers.

It's a silly premise and Delphine Durand's zany illustrations complement it quite well.

And perhaps I should leave it at that...

But the jacket flap also tells us that it is "a poignant story...about the need for love and recognition." I get that. In fact, the thought crossed my mind even before I went back and read the flap.

The whole "poignant" thing makes me nervous though. It's not that Lawrence David doesn't handle the message well. In fact, the need for love and recognition angle is worked in seamlessly. It's not at all preachy. But I'm nervous that educators and parents will use it to suck the fun out of the book entirely (as I'm doing now).

I'm all for discussing books with children, but as a child I would have yawned and thrown to the back of my desk had my teacher started going on about Gregory's sense of rejection, yadee, yadee, yada. Beetle Boy should remain first and foremost a fun book. Let the reader just enjoy it. Perhaps those higher order poignant messages will be internalized better if they're allowed to sink in subconsciously. And if not who cares?


Sam said...

That's a good point, John. I read a lot of books to my two grandsons and if I tried to discuss something like that message with them they would look at me like I was nuts and ask that we start the next book. At that age reading is all about fun...the learning that comes with it should not be too heavy handed.

John Mutford said...

Sam: I love talking about books with my kids as well but I think books as fun as this require us to let any potential lessons happen naturally.

Dewey said...

How Kafkaesque!

I think that even the most touchy-feely elementary teachers would ask leading questions of the kids to see if they had figured things out themselves. I hope there aren't very many teachers of young children who lecture on theme!

BookGal said...

Just had to pop in on this one. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. My class will love it. I don't beat them over the head with themes. It sounds like this one will lead to lots of laughs and possible a few kids writing stories about changing into a variety of bugs. How fun!

John Mutford said...

Dewey: I only read my first Kafka story recently (i.e., "The Penal Colony"). Which one(s) does this remind you of?

Bookgal: Let me know how it turns out!