We are changing the format of our reviews somewhat. First, I find that I frequently have to help my kids summarize the books we read, so instead of each providing a summary of the book, we will work together in coming up with one summary. Also, I’ve been toying for some time with the idea of no longer providing star reviews. My kids and I discussed it and they were adamant about keeping the star ratings that they get to assign, but I will no longer be assigning star ratings for my reviews. If you REALLY want to know what star rating I assign a book, you can visit me on Goodreads or Amazon. I find it more useful to discuss what I liked about a book as well as what issues I had.
Title: The Bug Barians®: Adventures in City Park (Book #1)
Author: Marty Byk
Illustrator: JoAnn DiMaggio
Year published: 2011
Publisher: Independent – Bug Barians Ltd., LLC
Number of pages: 36
Recommended age: 4+
Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
Purchase: Amazon (US) * Amazon (CAN) * iTunes
Bug Barians: Adventures in City Park (Book #1) is story about viking bugs who go off on an adventure on their boat, the “Leaf Erikson”. Some of the Bug Barians are Clonk the Conquerer, The Might Huntoon, and Valleri. They also have a cute pet aphid called Thor. Along the way, they meet a squirrel, a duck, and an unruly kite. Where will they go next?
1. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? I love the pictures because they are very bright and colourful. I like the picture of the Leaf Erikson the best because it’s pretty. My favorite bug is Thor the aphid because he’s the smallest and the cutest.
2. What is your favorite part of the story? My favorite part of the story is when the duck flaps its wings and they end up flying through the air. That sounded like fun. I want to fly too.
3. What is your least favorite part of the story? In the picture of the duck, the letter ‘d’ looks more like an ‘o’ so it looks like it says ‘ouck’!
4. Overall, what did you think about this book? I really liked the book.
5. Who do you think would like this book? I think kids 3 years and older would like this book.
Son Rating: ★★★★½
My Thoughts: Author Marty Byk and illustrator JoAnn DiMaggio have created an original, quirky cast of viking bug characters who embark on a series of adventures. The Bug Barians each have a unique name and personality to match. For example there is Clonk the Clonkerer – he is the clumsy one and The Mighty Huntoon, their fearless leader. There is even a representation of diversity with the inclusion of a Jamaican Bug Barian named Eddik the Dread and a female Bug Barian, (Flo) who is portrayed in a non gender stereotypical way (i.e., she uses her muscular strength to save herself and her friends).
The illustrations are absolutely amazing. Each of the Bug Barians has their own unique look. I think their depiction of “viking bugs” is very kid-friendly and really very well done. My only complaint in this respect is that, at least in the version I have, the illustrations did not necessarily go with the text. Rather, the illustrations were evenly distributed throughout the text. So, for example, the illustration of the cleverly named boat, the “Leaf Erikson”, appears on page 21, but it is first mentioned on page 8. This may only be the case in my review copy however.
With respect to the characters and the illustrations, I think that this series demonstrates much potential in developing into a children’s book series that young children will surely enjoy. I say “potential” because I did have a few issues with the book. The biggest issue I had with the book is that it did not have a clear start, middle, and end. I felt that we met the Bug Barians in the middle of an adventure and they then go on to have a series of other “mini-adventures”. The book ends with a promise of more adventure. In addition, the text was quite lengthy for young children and even my son (who is 6) sometimes lost concentration as I read the story.
In essence, it felt like the purpose of the book was more to introduce the characters rather than to have one continuous and engaging story. That being said, the introduction of John Gabriel, the human boy who indicates he knows the Bug Barians (but did not directly interact with them in this story), did seem out of place in the story. The end result of not having a clear storyline is that I could not pull out a clear underlying message other than the importance of camaraderie and kinship as demonstrated amongst the Bug Barians and the spirit of adventure.
I do have to mention that there is a lot of onomatopoeia included in the text, which is GREAT when you are reading the book out loud to children. My only complaint is that some of the onomatopoeia does not match what you would hear in the real world. For example, the squirrel roars (“ROOOARRR!”) and the pet aphid Thor barks (“RUFF! RUFF!”). Perhaps the author meant for this to be absurd and for kids to giggle about. Well, the duck does “quack”!
My Bottom Line: The Bug Barians features a wonderfully-illustrated and highly original cast of viking bugs who embark on a series of (mis)adventures in the City Park. The purpose of the first book in the series is primarily to introduce us to the six main Bug Barians; and, I did feel that a solid plot line was missing in this book. Despite this shortcoming, I do think that this book series has a great deal of potential in entertaining children 5 years and older. After all, my 6 year-old did say he really liked it!
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review.*
About the Author and the Illustrator
(From Goodreads) Marty Byk is a long time Television Writer/Producer who has worked for a wide range of channels along the way – including USA Network, Discovery Kids, Sy Fy, E! and others. He specializes in comedy but shouldn’t be encouraged. He’s worked in New York City and Los Angeles and considers going back to catering from time to time.
Several screenplays with his name on them keep threatening to escape from the high security desk drawer where they are currently doing time for bad behavior. Marty’s current goal is to keep the world safe from them – until such time when they can be rehabilitated and can do no harm to any reader who happens to find them.
Marty currently writes and produces for Hallmark Channel and is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and ASIFA – Hollywood (International Animated Film Society)
Illustrator JoAnn DiMaggio is an artist and designer who is originally from New York City. “The Bug Barians® is the first of three planned Bug Barian® books that will feature her unique graphic art work.
For more on author Marty Byk and The Bug Barians, please visit http://www.bugbarians.com/.
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