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.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B