cover image Stephen and the Beetle

Stephen and the Beetle

Jorge Luján, trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado, illus. by Chiara Carrer. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $18.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-55498-192-2

A small backyard encounter becomes the basis for big questions in this striking lesson in compassion. When Stephen sees a horned beetle behind his house, he doesn’t hesitate: “He took off his shoe and raised his arm.” Carrer’s naïf mixed-media illustrations show the boy, drawn in ink-scrawled outline, holding the shoe over his head, a giant stonelike oval hanging off its edge, as if to emphasize the shoe’s transformation into a deadly weapon. Before Stephen does the deed, “suddenly a thought came into his head. Where was the beetle going, anyway?” It’s a turning point, and the more consideration Stephen gives the beetle, the larger and more detailed Carrer (Otto Carrotto) draws it. She highlights its strangeness in scenes that culminate in a frightening black-and-yellow portrait of the beetle that looks like it’s about to attack. It doesn’t, though, and simply continues on its way, as does Stephen. With haunting lines like “The beetle went on about its business. It had no idea what was about to happen,” Luján (Doggy Slippers) hints that, to some larger, greater forces, human lives may be similarly insignificant. Ages 2–5. (Aug.)