Dr Bartholomew Cuttle wasn’t the kind of man who mysteriously disappeared.
When a book is listed as the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for two months in a row, two things happen. Firstly, we, in the children’s publishing industry, get a tad annoyed that one book takes up two of the prestigious (and limited) twelve slots for Book of the Month. And secondly, we all flood to read the book that has broken the rules!
Darkus Cuttle is in a quandary. His father has just disappeared meaning that he now has to live with his eccentric uncle while figuring out what has happened to his dad. For something has happened to his father – not only would he never abandon Darkus deliberately, he is also physically unable to disappear from a locked room! Does the infestation of unusually intelligent beetles in the neighbour’s house have anything to do it with? And why does the sinister scientist-turned-fashionista Lucretia Cutter keep turning up?
Never in a million years did I think I would enjoy a book about supercharged beetles but, quite honestly, this one blew me away. I adored Beetle Boy almost immediately and then proceeded to devour it. Leonard’s writing is fast-paced, witty, unique and clever and there is a reason she has been compared to greats of Dahl and Snickett, for she weaves a very good yarn! Part mystery, part adventure Beetle Boy follows Darkus as he unravels what it means to keep hope alive when it all looks lost and how even the smallest friend can make the biggest of differences.
The characters within Beetle Boy are so charmingly imperfect and such is Leonard’s narrative that even the beetles develop their own characters and voice. The camaraderie and friendship developed between man and minibeast is utterly delightful and you really come to understand how complex and wonderful these little creatures are – I shall never underestimate the humble beetle again!
I can’t talk about Leonard’s writing without mentioning Júlia Sardà’s illustration. The images dotted throughout the text really help to make this book even more special and brings the humour and drama within to life. I particularly loved her depiction of Baxter the rhinoceros beetle (he’s so animated and cute!) and her villain Lucretia Cutter has certainly made me more suspicious of real-life Vogue’s Anna Wintour…
This addictive read was over in a flash but I enjoyed every second and every page turn. When I got to the end, I was elated to discover it was the first instalment of a trilogy – bring on more Darkus, more Baxter and more beetling funtimes!