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William Balson
The Moth And The Flame

Middle Grade; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

A boy is granted a wish, For 30 days he is able to speak with insects in order to help his grandfather answer the question; "Why do moths fly into the flame?" His journey.adventure becomes far more important than the answer.
In an effort to probe the world’s mysteries, Balson debuts with the exploits of 10-year-old Jay as he uses his birthday wish to answer his grandfather’s musings on why some moths seem to purposefully fly into flame. Jay gets more than he bargained for with that wish, shocked to find he’s been granted the ability to talk with and understand insects by G.O.W.A.D., the Granters of Wishes and Dreams, to help him uncover the answers behind his grandfather’s ponderings. Each insect Jay meets on his quest has a unique personality, answering his questions and challenging his mistaken beliefs with experienced, knowledgeable voices.

Middle grade readers will be as entertained as they are educated by this adventure-fueled fantasy. Balson combines charisma and humor when detailing the various insects’ stories, starting with a honeybee named Evangeline who schools Jay on how busy she is tending to the work for her Queen—and clarifies some common misconceptions about her kind (case in point: honeybees only sting in self-defense). Jay moves on to other insects, including the humorous Duck, a fly with questionable manners but deep thoughts, and a sunset moth whose life expectancy after adulthood is unbearably short: “Like many other insects, we live long enough to make sure that more moths will be born than those that die'' it declares.

The insects themselves are so entertaining, readers will hardly notice their important lessons, and, despite their somewhat awkward placement, Balson’s computer-generated illustrations give the narrative some grounding. The bigger picture rings true as well: Balson teaches the importance of being kind, not only to each other, but also to the natural world. Jay eventually earns a beautiful answer to his question, but the knowledge he gains along the way is his true prize, and Balson’s encouragement to “open [your] heart and mind to the fact that there are things greater than just [yourselves]” carries weight.

Takeaway: A young boy uncovers nature’s secrets by talking to insects.

Comparable Titles: Amy Sarig King’s Me and Marvin Gardens, Danielle Davis’s Zinnia and the Bees.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: B
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B