By Maureen Tai, 18 December 2018
“Unk gladdenboot!” “Iz unk gladdenboot!”
Du Iz Tak? is the story of a small community of insects, the changing seasons and the vagaries of life, all told in the little known language of Bug. It is utterly charming and such fun to read aloud that you will be conversant in Bug in no time at all – and the amazing thing is, you will half understand what you’re saying just from having read this picture book …
As a hairy caterpillar spins itself into a cocoon and hangs silent from a protruding tree branch, three insect friends – a red and black spotted ball of a ladybug, a black beetle with distinctive yellow and black markings on its wings (possibly a black and yellow longhorn beetle?) and a small hat-wearing brown fly – chance upon a sprouting plant. “Du is tak?” the puzzled beetle asks, in their Bug language, and his companions shake their heads. “Ma nazoot” the fly responds, not knowing what strange plant it is that is emerging from the soil. Bug is a curious language, having possibly Slavik, maybe Germanic, perhaps even English roots. If you type random Bug words into Google translate, it detects Romanian, Russian, Dutch, Spanish and Hawaiian. Curiouser and curiouser!
As the green shoot continues to grow, the three friends decide to explore the plant. They knock on the door of the nearby fallen tree stump, which we discover houses the cosy and well-appointed residence of Icky, a many-legged, cicada-like insect. He wears wire-framed glasses. A minuscule bowler hat is perched on top of his smooth head. Icky is learned, with a deeply furrowed brow and his mouth set in a pensive, but not unfriendly, line.
Icky lends a long ladder to the three happy friends, who proceed to do what any gathering of self-respecting bugs would do when confronted with a tall, leafy plant of unknown origin. They build a fort! (or furt, in Bug-nese). But wait! Danger is lurking in the corner of page 19. A malevolent, many-eyed, furry tarantula slowly creeps towards the elaborate furt hidden among the verdant leaves of the plant. What is the fate of our friends? And what exactly is this mysterious plant?
The author and illustrator of this unique Caldecott Honor picture book is Carson Ellis whose art (which you can see here ) embody her distinctive style and whimsical humour. This is a wonderful read-aloud book that will appeal to all ages and to top it off, you learn a new language. Ta ta!
For ages 5 and up.