stephen and the beetle

Stephen and the Beetle by Jorge Lujan, illustrated by Chiara Carrer

This very simple story explores philosophical areas while still remaining a picture book that is accessible to very young children.  Stephen was walking in the garden and sees a beetle.  He took off his shoe and was about to smack the beetle.  The beetle continued on its way, unaware of the threat.  Stephen raised his shoe higher, but then started to wonder about what the beetle was doing and where it was walking to.  So Stephen set down his shoe and put his head on the ground.  The beetle came closer, reared back on its back legs and seemed about to attack, but then seemed to think about it and instead just continued on its way.  The parallel pieces of this story make it all the more thought provoking and should get children thinking in a new way about even their smallest decisions during their day.

Lujan’s writing is simple and pure.  He tells the story and what is happening with a straight-forward tone and allows the story itself to create the points of discussion.   The only point where the writing gets complex and lush is when the beetle is about to attack.  Suddenly the tone changes and the rhythm gets wild.  But then, it is back to the simple tone to finish the story.

Carrer’s art is done in mixed media that includes collage, paint, pen, chalk and ink.  She very successfully plays with dark and light images that mirror one another.  The beetle is shown to be just as complex a creature as Stephen himself. 

This is a book that will certainly generate discussion.  There are etchical implications here, the question of impact of our decisions, and the aspect of choice.  And yet, there is also a small boy playing in a yard with a beetle.  It is a perfect example of a small scene that speaks to much larger issues.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.