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Oddhopper Opera


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About the Author

KURT CYRUS has illustrated several picture books, including Mammoths on the Move and Avalanche Annie: A Not-So-Tall Tale, both written by Lisa Wheeler, and his own Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water..


Gr 2-4-"Once upon a garden rotten,/Twice forlorn and half forgotten-," a variety of beetles, earwigs, and other earth dwellers hid beneath the fetid vegetables, waiting for warmer weather. With a rhyming text and bug's-eye views of the towering vegetation, Cyrus follows insects, snails, frogs, and a snake through their spring awakening and summer foraging. Some of the animals eat the garden plants, some eat other creatures, and then there are the dung beetles: "`Papa, O Papa Bug, what will we eat?'/`It's gummy, it's yummy, it's dung! What a treat.'" The exaggerated size of many of the insects and ocher tones in the crowded pages lend a surreal quality to the scenes. The rolling rhyme features running accounts of several characters. Bummer Beetle is trapped on his back until the odor of Stinkbug finally motivates him to struggle upright. The snails have a race. "Give them a holler, a nod, and a nudge-/Give them a minute, and see if they budge." The garden is a messy melange, and the tone is one of mocking humor. In the end, as fall winds down the eating season, the snake makes a crunchy "munchie" of one of the snails, and a ripe tomato hits the ground, "SPLAT!/That's that." The slapstick account of the seasons runs a bit thin, but some children will enjoy the gross elements of slime and mold and the bug-eat-bug world.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Bold, inventive artwork lends high spirits to Cyrus's (Slow Train to Oxmox) down-and-dirty view of a garden. Full-bleed pictures share the eye-popping scale and dimensionality of David Kirk's Miss Spider books, but the palette is realistic and the action reflects bug behavior. At first the impression is one of enthusiastic chaos. Poems appear without titles but have different narrators; occasionally, words loop around the pages like vines. But ample visual and verbal clues spell out distinct story lines and a temporal setting, progressing from summer to autumn. Early on, snails begin a race ("Give them a holler, a nod, and a nudge..../ Give them a minute, and see if they budge"); they reappear on subsequent spreads until, on the final page, Mrs. Molasses winsÄa Pyrrhic victory, as an overripe tomato then falls on top of her ("SPLAT!/ That's that," the book concludes). One standout spread shows what appears to be a branch surrounded by a snake, but a closer look reveals a Katydid atop a walkingstick. Running gags include an overturned beetle who struggles to right himself; and ants who march along, shouting "BOINK" as they bump heads (a joke for budding entomologists who are aware that ants touch antennae to communicate). Many kids will like the gross-out factor in the attention paid to dung beetles as they feast; vegetables as they rot; bugs being consumed; etc. Throughout the seasons, this volume sustains its gleeful bounce. Ages 5-10. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"[A] verbal and visual tour-de-force."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"This is a collection of poems that bug-loving boys and girls as well as their teachers and librarians will share with great satisfaction."--Library Talk (starred review)

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