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Early Graphic Novel – Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite!

BURT THE BEETLE DOESN’T BITE!

Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires

(Kids Can Press; $12.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

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Sticky Burt is a bug who hugs!

 

Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! is the first in a new series by Ashley Spires, the author and illustrator of The Most Magnificent Thing and the Binky adventure series.

Meet Burt, he’s a ten-lined June (or watermelon) beetle. Burt has feathered antennae, a large body, a sticky abdomen, and can flail his legs when he falls on his back (but needs assistance flipping over). He notices that other insects have special or “super” abilities. A bumblebee is a “super hard worker” and ants can carry heavy loads. So what makes Burt special? Well, he’s trying to figure this out. As Burt meets more insects and learns about their amazing features, he wonders what his “super” ability is. Would winking count? How about hanging out around porch lights? Trying to imitate other insects’ super abilities doesn’t work either and Burt continually ends up on his back.

 

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

 

When Burt discovers a spider web with insects trapped in it, he’s amazed to find that their super abilities cannot free them from the web. As the venomous spider taunts Burt, he realizes he does have some super abilities. Burt’s a hugger and he happens to be sticky, too. Furthermore, he’s big and heavy enough to tear up the spider’s web when he falls on it, saving the other insects–and landing on his back once again. This time he has very grateful friends to help him flip over!

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

 

Cheerful and upbeat humor shines in this book. Commenting on his feathery antennae, Burt notes “it’s a style choice.” Gentle quips are exchanged between characters. When the spider, firmly stuck to Burt’s abdomen, asks “is this ever going to end?” Burt replies “I guess you’re stuck with me. Get it?” Exaggerated bodies and expressive faces, especially “bug” eyes, add to the enjoyment. 

 

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

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Spires has created a graphic novel designed for younger readers, especially those new to the graphic novel format. The panels are clean and well organized, without a lot of distractions. The number of characters and speech bubbles in a panel are kept to a minimum and the print is bold and slightly larger than usual.  This book is appropriate for independent readers or as a read-aloud for emerging readers.  

The book includes some themes which could be used to invite children to discuss character and friendship. Burt’s search for what makes him unique is something children also explore for themselves. Perseverance is a challenge for children, but Burt’s positive “can do” type of behavior in the face of repeated failures may encourage them to keep trying. He takes care of his friends and “doesn’t bite because that’s not how you make friends.”

Lastly, this graphic novel engages children in the natural world around them, weaving in factual information about insects and including “awesome insect super facts” in the back matter. Hopefully, it will inspire children to continue exploring the world of insects and their “super” abilities. 

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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Taking Care of Bees-ness

These Bees Count is reviewed by Rita Zobayan. 

These Bees Count written by Alison Formento with art by Sarah Snow ($16.99, Albert Whitman & Co., ages 4 and up) is a delightful and informative read that teaches children about the lives of bees and how they are important to plants and people. It’s also a counting book.  (Notice the clever double meaning of the title.)

                  We join Mr. Tate’s multicultural elementary school class as they go on a field trip to the Busy Bee Farm, where Farmer Ellen teaches students the ins and outs of a bee’s world. The typical concerns and questions that children have regarding bees are cleverly interwoven into the narrative of the book.

                  Eli held onto Mr. Tate. “Bees sting.”/“Only when they’re afraid or angry,” said Farmer Ellen. “And beekeepers always dress for safety before visiting the hives.”

                  Amy knelt to watch a bee on a clover blossom. “Bees sure are busy.”/”Yes,” said Farmer Ellen. “And without bee pollen, crops wouldn’t grow, and we wouldn’t have food to eat.”

                  The middle section of this 32-page book focuses on the bees as they buzz around the meadow, describing their activities and counting their day away.

                  One by one, we zip up high, buzzing through the bright blue sky. We fly over two waving dandelions, inviting us in. We find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness.

                  The students (and the readers) learn many things during their visit, including how pollination works, how nectar becomes honey, and how honey is extracted from the honeycombs. The information is written clearly and simply so that young children can grasp the concepts.

The book ends with “the buzz on bees,” which is essentially factual information. This section covers the role of bees in crop growth, the different “dances” bees perform, facts about hives and their inhabitants, different types of bees, and Colony Collapse Disorder.                 

                  Sarah Snow’s artwork is bright and detailed. It catches the reader’s eye and conveys the colors and images of a productive farm. By using the two-dimensional collage technique, Ms. Snow did a wonderful job of capturing the viewer’s attention and complementing the text.

                  These Bees Count is a great addition to a home or school library.  Click here for a helpful link to a teacher’s guide.

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