cover image Roberto: The Insect Architect

Roberto: The Insect Architect

Nina Laden. Chronicle Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2465-1

This good-natured tale, whose striking collages incorporate wood products and city photographs, introduces a termite who ""went against the grain.... Roberto didn't eat his food. He played with it."" While other termites picnic on ""wood chips"" and shotgun shacks, Roberto yearns to build with boards. He also exhibits a philanthropic streak. His first project is a neighborhood for homeless bugs, including a fireproof stone dwelling for a ladybug whose first house, per the nursery rhyme, burned down. Laden (When Pigasso Met Mootisse) wittily imagines a termite with a social conscience, one who ensures that bedbugs have ""their very own beds."" She incorporates woodworking tools into her bug-themed spreads and creates furniture from carefully cropped pieces of cork and veneer. Ant-like Roberto hunches over a mahogany-brown drafting table, busily drawing blueprints for a milk-carton shelter and a conical hive with neat circular windows. Even if children don't get the gags about Hank Floyd Mite (seated at a Guggenheim-shaped desk with a sketch of Fallingwater) and Fleas Van Der Rohe, nonstop insect quips and humorous bug house illustrations keep this book buzzing along. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)