Freda and the Blue Beetle

Owlkids. Apr. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771473811.
K-Gr 2–Who knows what might happen when one cares for a stray animal? Independent Freda doesn’t listen to the dire warnings of the townsfolk, and so begins her rescue of a beetle with a broken wing. “It’ll bite your toes, while you sleep,” they told her. Freda’s care for the beetle she names Ernest leads him to become “strong and blue as a winter’s morning.” Ernest grows so strong and so large that he does amazing work in the rural town. “Ernest felled trees and built their barns…and he toiled in their fields.” Alas, Ernest’s large appetite leads to banishment from the town. The folksy fantasy takes a rather contemporary turn here when all the residents become trapped in an underground shelter during a terrible storm. Italian author/artist Gilmore’s watercolor scenes are both energetic and a bit dark in tone. Smaller oval or circular scenes are set on a few white pages, while full- and double-page views amply depict town, fields and forests, the wider geography, angry townsfolk, and the dark shelter that’s finally pierced by shafts of light. Ernest’s square, blue shape is impressive but not dominant until the concluding scene when he’s truly gigantic. It’s a fun adventure by a child who gets to have the last say.
VERDICT A good blend of realism and make believe for early independent reading.

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