Review of The Great Whipplethorp Bug Collection

The Great Whipplethorp Bug Collection
by Ben Brashares; illus. by Elizabeth Bergeland
Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.    g
4/21    978-0-316-53825-1    $18.99

When Chuck decides he’s “bored enough” to accept his dad’s suggestion to start unpacking boxes in their new home, he discovers he’s descended from a long line of explorers and scientists. Among them is his grandfather Charles Van Velsor Whipplethorp III, who was a “famed entomologist and world traveler.” In comparison, Chuck’s data-analyst dad seems rather dull. “The great Whipplethorp men, it appeared, were getting…a lot less great,” reads the droll text. Chuck’s dad good-naturedly accepts his son’s mild disdain and encourages him in his efforts to emulate his grandfather’s study of insects. Here, Bergeland’s art excels, as Chuck imagines himself shrunk to the size of a beetle while preparing to capture and kill one for display. His second thoughts about the project provoke a creative solution (which wins accolades from his dad) and change his perspective on what it means to be great. Throughout, human characters are rendered in pencil, their forms incorporating the white of the page. Setting and insects, meanwhile, are illustrated with pencil and watercolor. The result is a distinctive style, and the play with scale evokes Kevin Hawkes’s depictions of children shrunk, surrounded by mammoth flora, in Paul Fleischman’s Weslandia (rev. 3/99). And just as with that book, Brashares’s wise, warm tale delivers a lesson about individuality, belonging, and progress without resorting to preachiness.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Megan Dowd Lambert
Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert is an instructor at Simmons University’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. For nearly ten years she also worked in the education department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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