9780152017903 / 0152017909



Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers



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About the book:

Janell Cannon, best-known for her award-winning picture books Stellaluna and Verdi, departs from the world of bats and snakes and turns her attention to... cockroaches. None of these are particularly cuddly creatures, but seen through Cannon's anthropomorphizing glasses, they are ones we can sympathize with. Crickwing, cruelly named for his twisted wing, is a lonely food stylist. He builds sculptures out of roots, leaves, and petals... and then eats them. But artistic serenity is not possible in the dangerous forest. The melancholy insect is constantly faced with cockroach-eating lizards, ocelots, and worse, food-stealing monkeys: "'Another masterpiece--ruined!' Crickwing panted. 'I'm starving and my wing aches. I don't know if I can take this much longer.'"

Bemoaning his fate as a "mere exoskeleton," Crickwing wakes up with thoughts of vengeance. As he watches thousands of leaf-cutting ants busy at work, he wonders, "Why isn't anyone bothering these little twerps?" He sticks his spiny leg out to trip one of them, and delights in taunting them further. Of course, the ants don't take this well. They swarm him, drag him into the dark corridors of their anthill, and bury him up to his neck--all the while whispering about how his mother must be heartbroken to have produced such an awful menace. Just as they are about to fork him over as their annual peace offering to the army ants, they have a crisis of conscience. "Nobody deserves that, not even this big bully," says one of the ants, and, risking the wrath of their queen, they release him and flee. Now it's Crickwing's turn to have a conscience. He races after the leafcutters with his creative plan to keep the warring army ants at bay. The story ends in a festive explosion of flower confetti, and a valuable lesson in compassion. The concluding "Cockroach Notes" and "Ant Notes" crawl with fascinating facts about our six-legged friends. (Ages 5 to 8) --Karin Snelson

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