ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Bug Boys’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Bug Boys

Bug Boys is a children’s graphic novel published by Penguin Random House and written, illustrated, and lettered, by Laura Knetzger, with colors from Lynde Lyle. The book is compiled of nine stories focusing on the adventures of two young beetles. The two best friends, Rhino-B and Stag-B, find themselves in all kinds of incredible situations as they learn important life lessons while strengthening their friendship along the way.

The two lead characters are based on a Rhino Beetle, and a Stag Beetle. All of the characters in the book are tied to actual insects that exist in nature. Some of the joy of this story is in the educational pillar it stands on.

Bug Boys

Speaking of pillars, the story has four pillars that allow it to succeed as a fantastic children’s graphic novel which are education, life lessons, humor, and illustrations.

The educative narrative approach is woven in very tightly to the various story arcs, so that a younger reader likely won’t be aware that they are absorbing the knowledge. The reader is introduced to all manner of insects and given a chance to get to know them in a funny and friendly approach. Through the eyes of the two boys, we learn that not all bugs are as violent and frightening as they are perceived to be. Additionally, we are shown through Knetzger’s storytelling that each bug has a role to play. Examples of ecosystems are littered throughout the book as well as the importance of not disturbing them. There is a key message of balance within nature and it serves as a backbone in many of the stories through the book.

Within Bug Boys, the focus on life lessons really hit me hard as a parent, and it’s so wonderfully addressed for a younger reader. The boys discuss subjects such as perceptions of the world, prejudices of other bugs, the experience of age and getting older plus many others. There are all manner of experiences that children will have to encounter on their road to adulthood, and seeing how Stag-B and Rhino-B deal with them in a light-hearted tone, opens a door for understanding.

During ‘Quest of the Honeycomb’, the adventuring duo is forced to address their own prejudices towards Bees, and Termites, thinking they are both violent, and mindless creatures that simply are built for war. Once they are confronted with each of the species, they quickly learn how wrong they were. There are many beautiful messages written in each of the mini-stories, that parents can be happy to have their children introduced to.

The book, however, wouldn’t be able to deliver these complex and intricate messages without the addition of the amazing humor and the brilliant illustrations that stand to serve as the main driver for Bug Boys. I read the review copy with my two sons, and daughter aged 6, and 4, and there were quite a few moments that had them experiencing raucous belly laughter. Our first family laughs together was an image of a Dung Beetle shouting “Avenge me!”. There are plenty of examples of this on every page, and my children had many laughs. The facial reactions of the two young Beetles were a hit with my kids, and they impatiently waited for the next uncomfortable situation where they could witness the two young insects react.

The dialogue was a little all over the place at times. Over some of the pages feeling quite comfortable for a first grade level, but then switching to more complex words and situations that would fit within the category of a 7-10 years old reading age. Other times, the dialogue had a bumpy broken flow to it, not feeling quite natural to the narrative. Overall though, these were only minor complaints, but something that would definitely serve to elevate the book.

I really enjoyed reading through Bug Boys, and it was made more joyful given I got to read this aloud with my three children. They laughed, they learned, and it opened the door for us to discuss some life lessons that they will no doubt encounter during their lives. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of depth to these characters and some of the subjects that were addressed during the stories. Each narrative covers a different message, and courageously tackles some difficult subjects that are addressed with such a lovely and delicate decorum.

As a father, I’ve read a lot of children’s books, and there are not many books, especially young graphic novels, that weave together education, moral values, and humor in a way that Knetzger has been able to do. I would definitely recommend this book to parents, and guardians who read to kids, or to children who can read at a second to third-grade reading level as a safe introduction into the world of graphic novels, and comics.

Overall, it’s a fun and incredibly silly read!

Bug Boys is available in stores February 11, 2020 and on pre-order from Penguin Random House.

Bug Boys
4

TL;DR

As a father, I’ve read a lot of children’s books, and there are not many books, especially young graphic novels, that weave together education, moral values, and humor in a way that Knetzger has been able to do. I would definitely recommend this book to parents, and guardians who read to kids, or to children who can read at a second to third-grade reading level as a safe introduction into the world of graphic novels, and comics.