Monday, July 16, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck

Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck. 266 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, May, 2018. 9781419721410. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I have often pondered (*) the vagaries of popularity and what makes something cool or uncool. Rebecca Petruck explores that as well as racism, white privilege and wrestling in this engaging story. She adroitly serves up insight along with shiver-inducing delight. The alliterative, embossed cover will definitely garner attention if displayed prominently in your library. Every kind of reader will be intrigued with Boy Bites Bug. 

When seventh grader Will Nolan chooses to pop a stink bug into his mouth to defuse a tense situation between one of his best friends and a new student in school, he's convinced that he will be the school pariah when he returns the following day, especially given the fact that he puked in front of his whole class. Instead, he finds himself dubbed, "Bug Boy," and his feat is now school legend. But he's still wrestling with the racial slur that flew so effortlessly from his friend, Darryl's  mouth and he'd rather be concentrating on making the wrestling team. When the new boy, Eloy Herrera expresses an interest in trying out, Will agrees to help Eloy make the team. The budding friendship is soon tested when Will inadvertently insults Eloy, who calls Will out on his covert racism. Will wants to keep his friendship with Darryl as well; but that may not be possible.

The mixture of middle school boy banter and pranks, the wrestling and fascinating facts about entomophagy (bug eating) will tempt readers to swallow this one whole. The recipes at the back of the book may or may not get readers to swallow an insect; but are definitely food for thought. I do admit that I haven't been able to bring myself to try the little bag of ant popcorn the author gave everyone at the Abrams luncheon that celebrated four middle grade titles. Yes, this does embarrass me. I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater. I am humbled. 

The Insectarium was already on my New Orleans itinerary when the author recommended visiting it. It is a wonder to behold. 

Thanks to Jenny and everyone at Abrams for bringing us Rebecca Petruck and Boy Bites Bug! This one won't sit on your shelf for long!

(*) Ever since seventh grade, to be exact. That might be fodder for another post.

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