My seven-year-old son isn’t a big fan of bugs, so I thought this book might be a good opportunity to get him to think of bugs as good guys instead of horrible monsters to be squashed. We read a chapter together each night. The good news is this book is a seat-of-your pants ride that he begged me to keep reading after we finished a chapter. The bad news is he still hates bugs.
In short, Max finds a magical magnifying glass inside an old musty tome his mom bought him at an auction (his mom brings home things from the auction house where she works, like full suits of armor — she’s the coolest mom, ever). When Max uses the magnifying glass to look at a map in the book, he is transported to Bug Island, a world where he’s bug-sized. He meets emperor scorpion Spike, which is a bit like befriending a great white shark.
After determining that Max is not a lizard (the enemy, natch), Spike brings Max to the bug’s leader, Barton, an enormous brown beetle. A volcanic eruption has caused a bridge to form between Bug Island and Reptile Island and the bad guys have begun to inviade. It turns out Max’s superior brain might just be the edge the bug’s need to fight off the dreaded General Komodo and his army.
Because this was a review copy the pictures were not all finished, but my kids enjoyed looking at them anyway. Judging by the description the critters in the book are meant to look like the real thing, but some of the bug pictures seem more anthropomorphic than others.
Author Jack Patton does a great job of balancing the fear of bugs — particularly scorpions, tarantulas, and other venomous creepy crawlies — with their utility. No bug is cuddly in this book, but they’re not bad guys either. The bugs are divided into combat divisions by type, so the flying bugs have their own regiment, so do the army ants, the hornets, etc. All of the bugs have entertaining personalities too, particularly the stuttering, shy trapdoor spider.
Conversely, the bad guys are often referred to as reptiles when that’s clearly not the case. There are several amphibians in the mix, and Patton seems to remember this a little later when he starts referencing that Reptile Island’s troops also included frogs and toads. Still, that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise very engaging battle between micro-fauna.
At heart this Battle Bugs delivers on the title’s promise: a war story that’s light on casualties and big on fun. My five-year-old daughter (who isn’t afraid of bugs) enjoyed it too.