Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
by Verna Aardema
illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon

Verna Aardema's Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
Pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

A cumulative tale unraveled like a detective story

I'll bet you didn't know what mosquitoes are saying when they buzz in your ear. It's this:

Is everyone still angry at me?

Why was anyone angry at Mosquito? Well, you see...

it was the mosquito
who annyoyed the iguana,
who frightened the python,
who scared the rabbit,
who startled the crow,
who alarmed the monkey,
who killed the owlet [accidentally!]
and now Mother Owl won't wake the sun
so that the day can come.

Now you know. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears is a children's book about interconnectedness.

The book traces these events forward, and then backwards, as King Lion - acting as prosecutor and judge, seeks to unravel cause and effect in the events leading to Mother Owl's distress. Without King Lion's wisdom, no one knows whom to blame besides the creature whose actions led directly to their own.

It's quite a cute tale, but it's the Caldecott Medal winning illustrations that will take your breath away and make you want to challenge your kids to figure out how to draw pictures in the same style.

Artists Leo and Diane Dillon used "watercolor airbrush, pastels and India ink," creating "cutout shapes," using "friskets and vellum."

(Why all the quotes? Because I certainly couldn't figure it out and had to go to Wikipedia for help.)

The effect is gorgeous: lush colors within white outlines, looking like some genius just revolutionized the use of stencils.

Leo and Diane Dillon

In fact, the artists won the Caldecott two years in a row, following this book with Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions, an African Alphabet book.

There are lots of reasons Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale remains a hit with teachers over thirty years afer its initial publication. Discover for yourself!

More children's book award winners.

More children's books about the black experience.

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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