Juan Hormiga

Archipelago/Elsewhere Editions. May 2021. 64p. Tr $22. ISBN 9781939810823.
K-Gr 3–Juan, the roguish hero of this tale, is a charming ant who has only two strengths, napping and telling his grandfather’s stories. In these tales, Grandpa swings from branches, kicks spiders, and parachutes using leaves from trees. The other ants listen with rapt attention. Using a limited green, red, and black color palette and a deceptively simple drawing style and font, Roldán creates a sophisticated picaresque that elevates the act of oral storytelling to a central role in the ant community. Visual cues, such as Roldán’s use of red to distinguish Juan from his fellow ants or a switch in text color, add to the accessibility of the book. The cartoonish style and the indulgent and adoring response of the other ants to Juan’s behavior signals to readers the overall tone of humor and absurdity. Although familiar in structure to a folklore or fable, the message of the story, rather than being cautionary, is about the act of sharing stories. There are no dire consequences to Juan’s less than industrious lifestyle. A moral? Stories are a valuable contribution to society and that without this art form, life becomes untenable and dull.
VERDICT An excellent purchase for any collection where longer, complex picture books that lead to discussion and laughter are appreciated.

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