While the hen, horse, goose, dog and other animals on the farm are quick to cluck, neigh, hiss and woof, the ladybug never says a word as she silently goes about her business. In the charming new picture book What the Ladybug Heard, the ladybug’s demeanor changes when she overhears two robbers’ plan to steal the farmer’s fine prize cow. Julia Donaldson’s rhythmic verse, perfect for story times, describes the ladybug’s humorous counter plan to foil the robbers. With the help of her barnyard friends, the diminutive heroine saves the cow by leading the robbers away from its shed and right into the duck’s pond. After a round of cheers, the ladybug returns to her typically reticent behavior.

Lydia Monks’ jovial and vibrant collage illustrations, rendered in acrylic paints, colored pencil and patterned fabrics, lend many funny flourishes to the story, from the robbers’ coffee-stained map of the farm to their slapstick stomp through manure. Children will also delight in comparing the first and last double-page spreads of the farm, which offer a before-and-after bird’s-eye perspective. They can follow the path the robbers took (leaving a trampled garden and dirty footprints along the way) and imagine where the barnyard animals hid as they conducted their parts of the sabotage. Although the little ladybug doesn’t appear in these larger illustrations, young readers will still feel her strong, quiet presence. What the Ladybug Heard is an excellent pairing of story and pictures and a reminder that even the smallest and least assuming among us can use her unique skills to save the day.

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