Sunday, April 3, 2016

Beetle Boy by M G Leonard

This book became my obsession last week.  I actually raced home to keep reading it.  Yes Beetle Boy is that good!

Darkus lives with his dad and life is okay.  Sadly his mum has died but after some hard times dad seems to be coming round. Then one day Bartholomew Cuttle disappears.  It is a total mystery because his dad was working inside a basement room in the Natural History museum.  The door was locked from the inside and there appears to be no way this hard working Director of Science could have left the room.  All that the police find is a cold cup of coffee, some papers and open drawers. This room houses the largest Coleoptera (or beetle) collection in the world.  The drawers hold beetle specimens.

Here are some of the beetles mentioned in this story.

"Dung beetles, jewel beetles, giraffe-necked weevils, Goliath, stags, bombardiers, fireflies, lavender beetles, ladybirds, Atlas, Hercules and titan beetles, tiger beetles, rhinoceros beetles, carpet beetles, deathwatch and tok-tokies."

You might like to research some of them especially in preparation for the final battle scene.  There are beetles who make dung balls, beetles who can chew through concrete and wood and beetles with very painful stings.

Darkus knows his dad is still alive even though the authorities are convinced he is dead..  Luckily his uncle agrees and so Darkus moves in with Uncle Max, who is an archeologist, and together they set about solving this mystery.  Living next door to Uncle Max are two very strange, ugly and angry brothers. In the house where these men live there is a room filled with every type of beetle you can imagine and many that you probably have never heard of.  One of these beetles has adopted Darkus - his name is Baxter.  He is a rhinoceros beetle. There is a wonderful scene near the beginning of the book when these brothers, Pickering and Humphrey, capture Darkus.  The tie him to a chair.  Smother his clothes and face with cranberry sauce and gag him.  You will cheer when you read how the beetles help free Darkus and you laugh at the stupidity of using cranberry sauce!

The brothers live in an old emporium and behind the building is a treasure trove of old discarded furniture.  This makes the perfect hiding place for Darkus and his special friends Virginia and Bertolt.

"It looked as if a mob of brawling furniture had been frozen with a ray gun.  Table and chair legs stuck out, their feet like clenched fists about to land a punch.  A brave hatstand was making break for it at the south side of the yard ."

Adding to all this tension we also meet an evil woman named Lucretia Cutter.  "Two sparkling black sticks appeared, and then a woman's head. Jet-black hair, gold lips, and then her body came lurching into view, leaning on the sticks.  She wore a white laboratory coat over a long black dress, and every jarring movement of her body screamed out how angry she was."  I recommend you read page 260 for an even more stomach turning description of Lucretia and her method of eating! Lucretia is obsessed by beetles she even has a live one as a broach on her coat.

If  I have not convinced you that Beetle Boy is fabulous click here to read the first sixteen pages. You might also enjoy this detailed review.  Following this book I would read Masterpiece which features an equally heroic beetle.  It is also worth watching the video of MG Leonard talking about her book (see below) and I have included a couple of alternate covers including one from Sweden.  This book also reminded me of Caleb by Gary Crew which is a book I enjoy reading to our Grade Four classes.

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