Coming up with unique characters for children's literature can be a daunting task. Certainly every possible creature, real or imaginary, has already been used or so this reviewer thought. Dee Lillegard, though, found a new one. The unlikely star of Big Bug Ball is the sow bug, better known by its unscientific but more visually correct name, roly-poly.
The bug ball that this book is referring to, though, is not the shape these bugs roll into when confronted. It is a gala event where bugs gather to dance, dance, dance. Rex Barron's colorful illustrations of a dance floor made of playing cards and upright forks, numerous insects in human attire, and a beautiful backdrop of a star-filled night sky set the stage for Dee Lillegard's playful rhyme. Almost song-like, the rhyme flows uninterrupted except for the sow bug's lamentations of But I don't know how to dance! Little by little, as the frenetic pace of the ball builds, the sow bug starts to think that, maybe, she really can dance. Wonderful things can happen even for a lowly sow bug with a little bit of confidence.
The cast of supporting characters is no less amusing: katydids, crickets, centipedes, and ants, Dragonflies and butterflies, dance, dance, dance. Even Madame Butterfly makes her debut at this ball. One of the most amusing bugs, though, is the Travolta-like cockroach strutting his unforgettable disco fever. Dressed in his white polyester-suit, he and his partner entertain the audience with their daring disco moves.
While most dances are not life-changing experiences, keep in mind that these are just bugs. In their diminutive lives, this is a BIG thing. And for at least two of the bugs (guess which two?), they will leave the dance and they will never be the same . . . Children who read Big Bug Ball may not be forever changed, but they should certainly be intrigued and amused. Big Bug Ball may become a bedtime favorite.
Denise Harris teaches pre-kindergarten through 4th-grade Spanish and writes for children.