Many kids books, after the first hundred times you read them, are a real slog to get through. Good kid lit reads just as easily for the parent the hundredth time through as the first, which means that the kids get a more enthusiastic reading each night and like it even more. It’s a wonderful positive feedback loop.
It’s hard to put into words just how much I love The Gentleman Bug. It’s a sweet story, with a bookish little bug who reads despite being scoffed at by some of the other bugs, and eventually wins the heart of the bug of his dreams. The art is surprisingly sophisticated, though: if you just read to words aloud to your little one, you’ll miss a few major plot points. It’s become the new favorite at bedtime in my house. And that’s saying something, since you know how toddlers are with routine.
Ah, the art…there’s a real tendency in toddlers’ books to go super-minimalistic–plain cut-outs and either photo backgrounds or no background at all. I’ve noticed this everywhere from the Olivia books to Mo Willems’ stuff. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing–it actually works pretty well in most cases–but Hector does just the opposite, giving you lush, flower-laden backgrounds that are just as interesting as the text. Stylistically, it’s a throwback, perhaps, and it’s really different from much of what I’m seeing in other contemporary toddler fiction (I don’t believe I just wrote that phrase).
There’s a lot going on in The Gentleman Bug. After reading through it at least a dozen times, I’m still looking for new details in the background–and sometimes finding them. His style is most reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, particularly his depiction of the inside of the title bug’s cottage.
Like the best of all toddler books, it’s engrossing for the little ones, and actually fun to read for parents. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy The Gentleman Bug, and it was a great introduction to Julian Hector’s other wonderful work. This one is a keeper.