CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 29 . . . . April 3, 2015
In his illustrated novel, The Mosquito Brothers, Griffin Ondaatje presents a compelling coming-of-age tale that is told from the perspective of a young mosquito, Dinnn Needles. The reader initially meets Dinnn moments after his birth, quickly learning that Dinnn’s fear of flying, while unusual for a mosquito, provides him with a greater perspective of his world and its inhabitants. Skipping over the toddler and pre-schooler years, the reader is propelled into the paradoxical world of angst and joy that is upper elementary school which Dinnn attends along with his 400 brothers and sisters. Picked on by teenage mosquitos, Dinnn soon learns how to survive in the bullying atmosphere. And the drama is rife at home, as well, for Dinnn has a deadbeat father who is too tired from movie-watching to look for work (even mosquitos have dysfunctional families, it would seem). Wanting more adventure in his life, and to escape less than welcoming situations at home and school, the city-dwelling mosquito yearns for a trip to the Wild (i.e. the country) in order to find his half-brother. Finally able to hitch a ride to the country while in the vent of a minivan, Dinnn meets his extended family and experiences many adventures, including a ride on a Ferris wheel and an attack by the dreaded dragonflies that are the natural enemies of the mosquito. Scientific facts on mosquitos pepper the book throughout, and the reader will be able to test his or her knowledge with a quiz at the end.
The Mosquito Brothers is certainly a compelling novel, propelling the reader along at a swift pace which is made possible by short chapters and the occasional cliff-hanger. For this reason, the book would probably make a good read-aloud in the classroom. It would also tie in nicely with classroom instruction on animal life-cycles and behaviour. Although I did not check the accuracy of every scientific fact, the author disclosed that he “tried to include much factual information”, producing an excellent list of resources for the curious (but older) reader to enjoy. Small liberties with facts are the writer’s purview. One aspect of the style or content that prevented a four star rating was the inclusion or passing mention of almost every problem known to adolescents, including “being different”, bullying, dysfunctional homes, half-siblings, allergies (many of Dinnn’s siblings had pesticide allergies), fear of teachers, deadbeat dads, peer pressure, isolation, etc. While each of these is a good theme to include in a novel for children of this age group, all of the themes presented together is overload. In addition, more than half of the book focuses on Dinnn’s life in the city, but the real adventure in the country (and the main event of the book) takes up only a fraction of the book. There is too much buildup for only a little payoff. Nevertheless, school and public libraries should purchase this novel for its exciting story, its characterization (especially of Dinnn), and its interesting illustrations (of which there could have been more).
Roxy Garstad is the Collection Assessment Librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.