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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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Count Us In For Some Soup

Ronna Mandel reviews SOUP FOR ONE by Ethan Long.

Perfect for preschoolers, Soup For One  ($14.95, Running Press Kids, ages 3 and up) is a treat to read. The start of school means opportunities to learn, but also to have fun and this book offers just the right amount of both. Long has created an engaging story that is part counting book and part whimsical mystery.  Children can count how many hungry flies decide to descend upon a hot bowl of soup, pre-empting an eager spider from diving in. “Tee hee hee! Some soup for me!” announces the first fly in brightly-colored and totally appealing artwork that appears to be a combination of several mediums.

Can your youngster spot the hiding spider? What kind of face is the second fly making? There are so many ways to delight your child as you make a game and count to ten.  What colors are the flies? Can you remember which fly flew in third? Is someone sipping some soup and if so, how?  Parents can pose other questions such as “How do you think the first fly is feeling after so many other flies have invaded the soup?” to discuss different feelings displayed on every page.

As parents read page after page, curious kids may begin to wonder what happened to the chef or whether the patient spider will ever get a chance to enjoy the soup, and that’s precisely why this picture book works on so many levels. 

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National Disabilities Month and National Anti-Bullying Month

I could not let October end without mentioning this delightful picture book that brings the whole point of National Disabilities Month and National Anti-Bullying Month home.

13293234281Written sensitively by Robert Kroupa with stunning, detailed illustrations by Hannah E. Harrison, Just Like You ($16.99, Seven Legs Press, ages 4-8)  is a meaningful story of two friends – Henry, a deaf mouse and Boris, a disabled spider. Together with all of nature’s other creatures, these pals inhabit Piney Forest but live alone in a little tin cottage. Teased and goaded constantly because of their differences, Henry and Boris find comfort in each other’s company, but deep down wish for acceptance.

When a raging fire begins to wreak havoc on the lives and homes of the very creatures who mock and bully Henry and Boris, they don’t hesitate to find a creative way to alert everyone of the danger. Because of their heroics, the two are welcomed into Piney Forest. Finally, their wishes come true. The friends are appreciated for who they really are and all they have to offer!

“Because now we all see

that it really is true.

You are just like us,

and we are

Just

Like You!”

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be distributed to a pre-selected charity. Buyers can choose from the following: HollyRod Foundation, PACER Center, Art of Elysium and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Find out more at http://www.JustLikeYouFoundation.org.
Ronna Mandel reviewed Just Like You.

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