Du Iz Tak?

Carson Ellis. Candlewick, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6530-2
Ellis’s (Home) bewitching creation stars a lively company of insects who speak a language unrelated to English, and working out what they are saying is one of the story’s delights. In the first spread, two slender, elegantly winged creatures stand over a green shoot. “Du iz tak?” says the first, pointing. The other puts a hand to its mouth in puzzlement. “Ma nazoot,” it says. The insects marvel at the plant as it grows, build a fort in it (complete with pirate flag), exclaim as it produces a spectacular flower (“Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!”), then disappear one by one, like actors exiting the stage. Observant readers will notice other changes over the course of the seasons: a fabulously hairy caterpillar spins a cocoon on a dead log, the log opens to reveal a cozy dwelling, and what looks like a twig atop the log is not a twig at all. Ellis renders the insects with exquisite, baroque precision, outfitting them with hats, eyeglasses, and tweed jackets; in a romantic interlude one serenades another with a violin. Generous expanses of cream-colored empty space emphasize the smallness and fragility of these living beings, who move busily along the forest floor at the bottom edge of the pages. Very gently, Ellis suggests that humans have no idea what wonders are unfolding at their feet—and that what takes place in the lives of insects is not so different from their own. Has there ever been anything quite like it? Ma nazoot. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2016
Release date: 10/18/2016
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