- The Fly by Elise Gravel, and: The Worm by Elise Gravel
Perhaps you’ve said to yourself, “Why aren’t there more easy reader titles about vermin?” Well, worry no more. Gravel’s new series nicely fills that particular niche, serving up nuggets of introductory information about “Disgusting Critters” with a heaping helping of humor. One key factual tidbit is crisply presented per page or per spread, while the comical accompanying illustrations feature cartoon-esque creatures joking, via dialogue bubbles, about the info. In The Fly, for example, the text stating “The housefly is gray, with black stripes on his back, and his body is covered with hair” is juxtaposed against a picture of a pop-eyed fly in mid-shave, exclaiming “That means a lot of shaving!” The earthworm featured in The Worm resents the authorial designation of its muscle tube as “slimy and disgusting,” until later, when the text’s cheerful assertion that “Fishermen use earthworms to catch fish, and some people even eat them and find them delicious!” prompts the worm to exclaim, “What? Delicious? No, no, no! I’m disgusting! I’m disgusting!” The amusing digital artwork, rendered appropriately in earth tones with pops of brighter reds or pink on matte pages, is modern, fresh, and funny. The steely blue housefly with his oversized eyes and protruding proboscis and the chipper, rosyhued earthworm who respectively star are cute enough to win over even the kids who normally run screaming from creepy crawlies. While some readers may need help to decode words like “muscidae” or “hermaphrodites” (defined within the text), the writing is generally quite accessible to older primary graders; reluctant older readers may find these titles appealing as well. Pair these with Cronin’s Diary of a Worm (BCCB 10/03) or with Miller’s This Is Your Life Cycle (BCCB 9/08) for a bounty of bantering bugs.