The Bug Club by Elise Gravel, 56 pp, RL 3


The Bug Club 
Review Copy from Drawn & Quarterly
You hear a lot about the importance of voice in the world of fiction, children’s books and adults, but I rarely hear it being mentioned when it comes to non-fiction. As someone who prefers to read fiction, I definitely need a few hooks to reel me in to a non-fiction book, and I’m sure there are more than a few young readers out there like me. When it comes to voice, Elise Gravel has volumes of it, both in her words and pictures. Gravel’s illustrations hooked me immediately. With a muted palette that is a bit unexpected in a children’s book, her comic-like (and comedic) illustrations are so inviting. Every character looks friendly, no matter how weird, silly or even angry they may appear. Once you have opened the cover of one of Gravel’s books, you are treated to her equally inviting narrative voice and compassionate mindset.
Be it board books, picture books, leveled readers, field guides or middle grade novels, Gravel’s voice is always distinctively straightforward.With The Bug Club and The Mushroom Fan Club, Gravel’s long running passion for her subjects is instantly infection. While I find both bugs and mushrooms interesting, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of either before reading Gravel’s guides. A few pages in and I was seeing the natural world with new eyes, ready to forage in a forest and, as Gravel shares at the end of The Bug Club, "plant four sticks in the grass to form a square" and count all the bugs within it, like she did as a child.
Gravel begins The Bug Club with an overview of the insect world and its important role life on Earth. "BUGS ARE WEIRD," beings the section where Gravel tells readers, " I like most weird creatures, and bugs are among the weirdest creatures on our planet." She goes on to draw a fly head and invite readers to imagine it human-sized. The bulk of the book is comprised of two-page spreads featuring some of her favorite insects, fascinating facts about them and, of course, awesome illustrations. Gravel includes a disclaimer at the start of the book, letting readers know, "I don’t draw very realistic insects." I learned so much reading The Bug Club (it’s tempting not to spiral off and list all the fascinating facts Gravel includes), so much that I was inspired to learn more about the insect world, and I have no doubt young readers will be inspired in the same ways.
After sharing that the Lesserblack Tarantula keeps a tiny frog as a pet for symbiotic reasons, several pages about beetles (because Gravel is in love with beetles) and a very detailed drawing of the inside of a snail (in a word bubble and perfect example of Gravel’s sense of humor, this cross-sectioned snail is saying, "Hey! Don’t look inside of me! That’s private!") Gravel shares some fun bug facts, more fun facts, fun ways to observe bugs, and, best of all, two pages of IMAGINARY BUGS with names! 
So, if you want to see the Frilly Guk, the Fire Turtlefly, the Supuklusus or the Bapnuss and learn the fascinating things that a pill bug can eat, grab your own copy of The Bug Club! And The Mushroom Fan Club. And Gravel’s autobiographical artistic inspiration in sketchbook form, IF FOUND Please Return to Elise Gravel. And then the Olga trilogy – TRULY hilarious from start to finish. By that point, you will already be buying everything else Elise Gravel has written. 
BUT: You don’t have to go to a bookstore to bring a bit of Elise Gravel into your home, classroom, office, garage, etc. Being the wonderful, thoughtful, well-spoken, generous creator that she is, Gravel makes and shares FREE PRINTABLE STUFF on her website that is excellent for helping kids understand big abstract concepts like racism, courage, hair, feelings, autism, diversity vs. uniformity, mediation, families and more. Gravel has also created posters breaking down gender stereotypes and, happily, will be publishing in March of 2022, along with transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais, the picture book Pink, Blue and You! Questions for Kids About Gender Stereotypes.

Don’t miss Gravel’s most recent free poster: 

Elise Gravel’s Non-Fiction 

King of the Birds   Join the Crow Crowd!
Elise Gravel’s fiction 

Read my reviews of Book 1 & Book 2

August 10, 2021 at 01:02PM Tanya