Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs
written by Megan McDonald
ilustrated by Jane Manning

Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs
Written by Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Jane Manning

Children's books review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 3+ will probably enjoy this book.
Ages 8+ could probably read it on their own.

Here's a helpful cooking tip from Beetle McGrady:

"Need a high-protein snack? Try grasshopper tacos! A serving of grasshoppers has almost as much protein as a hamburger and about half the calories. Finger-lickin' good!"

Well, dieters, what are we waiting for? Grasshoppers are good for you, and what's more, they're FREE! Oh -- and now I've just had a great idea. Given today's tough economic times, maybe I should start my own grasshopper farm… you know, just in case. I don't think there are any local ordinances that prohibit grasshopper farms. Breeding them by the thousands in the back yard, there'd some for eating, some for selling -- it could be the next big thing.

After all, sometime around the last major depression, mail-order marketers of chocolate-flavored dirt hit the big time as they catered to the earth-loving taste-buds of a small army of deeply closeted (and apparently, hookworm-riddled) consumers who craved the stuff with ravenous shame. That's what I've heard, anyway.

Won't you sign up to receive my grasshopper catalog then? Beetle McGrady would.

Beetle McGrady, culinary adventurer extraordinaire, fearless devourer of mealworm cookies, caterpillar fungus tea and tree-worm spaghetti, seeker of the savory delights of all things entomological, would be my first customer, I'm sure of it.

Beetle's affinity for bugs didn't just happen overnight, though. Beetle McGrady was not a born bug-eater. She had to build up to it, to dream, to aspire.

Picture her plight, if you will, and see if you can relate.

It's Fun with Food week in science class and Beetle, creator of food group number six -- bugs -- has boldly announced her intention to eat an ant. But despite drawing from the inspiration of pioneers who ate locusts and worms, or even Laura Ingalls Wilder, who once ate a cricket pie, Beetle's early fear really gets in the way of her goals. This is rather embarrassing for Beetle, as her ant-eating ambitions have been widely advertised among her classmates, and she finds herself, after her first failed attempt, on the defensive end of a double dare. "Tomorrow," she announces, stalling.

"At 1:07 p.m. on Tuesday, she, Beetle McGrady, would eat an ant."

At home, she practices with potato chips and raisins, but alas, Tuesday is another bust. Feeling low, Beetle pours her brooding self-disgust into a poetic scrawl entitled "The Ant Not Eaten."

"Oh no," says her best friend. "You're still thinking about that ant?" Yeah, sadly, she is. Beetle wants to be brave. "I'm about as brave as a mealworm. A mealworm is not an explorer. A mealworm is not a pioneer," she answers.

At this rate, Beetle will never be a world explorer or master of the great Antarctic wilderness -- her biggest goal of all.

Though she's brave enough to sample falafel, fish eggs and bird's-nest soup that's made out of bird spit, none of these measure up to Beetle's true mission.

Would she ever do it? Could she ever work up the nerve?

Enter Chef Suzanne, who arrives in science class, at last, with platter upon platter of steaming, tasty-smelling victuals, all of which turn out to be made of bugs. Mexican stinkbug salsa and crickets, toasted or pizza-style, to name a few.

Can she, can she? Beetle snaps up a black witch moth caterpillar, pops the thing in her mouth, summons all her bravery, chews, swallows and falls to the floor.

Ah, but she's only kidding and wa-hoo!, what an awesome feeling! She finally did it! Beetle is on top of the world, snacking her way through the insect food chain, much to the somewhat grossed-out admiration of her pals. She helps them to share in the creepy-crawly critter feast and now that she has conquered her fear, there's nothing that Beetle couldn't do. "Today, ants. Tomorrow… ANTarctica!" exclaims Beetle, triumphant at last.

Viewed from the perspective of positive psychology and emotional intelligence, Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs! is a great book on resilience, or how to keep bouncing back in pursuit of a dream, even though the road is going to be bumpy.

In this fun story, we follow along as Beetle sets her sights and falls short. We watch as she tries to conquer her fear and comes up flat. We see her wallow in self-loathing and rise up to keep trying. Little steps get her there, though, and at last, we share her joy. The final message: Beetle can do it -- and so can you!

Applause, applause -- what an imaginative, fun and inspiring book!

Webmaster's note: Do you have a truly picky eater in the family? You might also want to know about How Only Baloney Got Cured of Spoiled-Taste-Buds-Atitis!

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

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