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Reviewed by:
  • Juan Hormiga by Gustavo Roldán
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Roldán, Gustavo Juan Hormiga; written and illus. by Gustavo Roldán; tr. from the Spanish by Robert Croll. Elsewhere Editions/Archipelago, 2021 [64p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781939810823 $22.00
E-book ed. ISBN 9781939810830 $13.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R 6-10 yrs

Juan Hormiga’s fellow ants don’t mind that he’s not particularly industrious or that he usually shirks ant duties for naptime because they know that he’s the colony’s best storyteller, narrating the extraordinary adventures had by his grandfather to the breathless wonderment of his insect crowd. One day, however, Juan decides it’s his turn to hit the road and gather some of his own stories. The other ants, fantasizing about his adventures, are so lost in their imaginings that they barely have time to escape a sudden storm; their wondering turns to worry as they become convinced Juan has been swept away. Their efforts to memorialize him with a flower, though, lead to their finding him ensconced safely in a tree, waking up from a restful nap, blissfully unaware of the drama. This Argentinian import, a delightfully idiosyncratic ode to storytelling, just begs for a readers’ theater performance, balancing the various ants’ emotive musings with a folkloric narrative tone. There’s a clever authorial wink as it becomes clear that it’s the usually diligent ants who have the adventure here, and their increasing dramatics over Juan’s possible fates are sure to elicit some guffaws. The scribbly art has a cheerful verve with dynamic compositions and a plethora of frantic motion lines, and the ants themselves are pleasingly odd little dudes with oversized beaklike heads protruding over pudgy bottoms and sticklike appendages. The vocabulary can get relatively sophisticated but visual cues and humor could keep a savvy early reader’s attention—the joy here, though, will more likely involve some performative storytelling that would make Juan Hormiga proud.