The Grouchy Ladybug
Illustrations: Eric Carle
Publication: Chitra Books
Read aloud: 3 years +
Read alone: 6 years +
Eric Carle is a genius. Period.
I am tempted to go no further lest I contaminate the reader’s pleasure in discovering this book. But since it is incumbent upon me to introduce to you this book, here goes.
The Grouchy Ladybug is a charming story of a not-so-charming title character; a pint-sized, wee bit, anti-hero, on the quest for a worthy opponent. In his pursuit, he does not think much of challenging any creature he encounters, regardless of their size or strength, with bravado that far belies his fear and cowardice. But when the opponents call his bluff, our Grouch puts up an air of condescension to avoid a confrontation.
His final comeuppance comes from a nonchalant flick of a whale’s tail (actually die-cut in the shape of a tail designed, I’m guessing unintentionally, to imitate the flick) which sends him flying back to the leaf he started from. He is ultimately humbled through this amusing (to us) lesson in social graces and learns that there is much to be gained from a cheery disposition and use of good manners.
Believe it or not!
- The ‘Lady’ in ladybug refers to the Virgin Mary. Legend has it that during the Middle Ages, farmers in Europe were plagued by pests, so they began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary. Soon, the farmers started seeing ladybugs in their fields, and the crops were miraculously saved from the pests. They associated their good fortune with the black and red beetles, and so began calling them lady beetles.
- The 7-spotted lady beetle is believed to be the first one to be named after the Virgin Mary; the red color represents her cloak, and the black spots represent her sorrows.
- In Germany, these insects go by the name Marienkafer, which means Mary beetles.
The die-cut pages add drama and dimension (very interestingly sized to increase in progression as each successive adversary becomes bigger) and the illustrations are very bright, bold collages, and add to the fun element. The fact that Eric Carle personally creates the illustrations, adds greatly to the beauty and charm of his books and characters. His hallmark style of creating tissue paper collages is individualistic and distinctive.
From learning about various animals to the lessons in social behaviour, the teachings for children in this book are immense. A lot of thought has gone into detailing- mapping the position of the sun with reference to the time of day (a time clock traces a 12-hour day from 6 am to 6 pm) is a brilliant touch.
For those interested, a bilingual version is available using English and Hindi text simultaneously. The book is available here.
(Have you read this book to your kids? What was your experience? Use the comments section to tell other parents)
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