Hilda L. Treviño’s new children’s chapter book follows the activities of the Bopper ladybug family as a new generation arrives and is taught to save its home tree by devouring invading aphids.
The story opens when parent ladybugs Trey and Shelly welcome three new offspring into the world just as they also realize that an aphid infestation is underway. They name their children for the unusual physical attributes of each: Leggy has thick, furry legs; Antenny’s antennae are outlandishly long; Tribeetleeye has a third eye but lacks one leg. The parents make sure to inspire confidence in the kids that their differences can be advantageous.
The Bopper children surpass their parents’ expectations as the family ravenously routs aphids and also spars with dangerous predators, including dragonflies, a jumping spider, and more. The best writing comes in the confrontations with these larger insects.
Treviño’s background as a language arts and English teacher comes through in this competently crafted story. The author has a command of grammar, a flair for creating lively action scenes, and keeps her story well paced.
Nevertheless, overall the book is hard to warm up to. That’s because the notion of parents encouraging their children on to devour other living things is simply not appealing. While Treviño makes it clear that this is their natural role, she falls short of delivering the kind of explanation that keeps characters lovable even as they kill — as E.B. White does for his spider in Charlotte’s Web. Not only is the sensitive explanation missing here, but the Bopper children show glee in gobbling up the aphids. One suspects that this story would do best read aloud by someone who is ready to reassuringly answer children’s questions.
Also available as an ebook.