Author: Verna Aardema
Artist: Leo and Diane Dillon
Genre: Animal / Drama / Fantasy / Folktale
Year Published: 1975
Year Read: 1994
Content Rating: Ages 5+ (Death of a Child)
“Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” is a Caldecott Award winning folktale from Africa about the consequences of lying to other people and how they affect others. Verna Aardema’s playful narrative and Leo and Diane Dillon’s colorful and vibrant illustrations make this book an instant treat for children and adults alike.
Verna Aardema’s magnificent retelling of an ancient West African folktale is both funny and dramatic. The story of how a mosquito’s lie eventually causes chaos in the forest and the unfortunate death of one of Mother Owl’s owlets is an extremely dramatic moment in this book and it teaches children how lying can affect other people in a negative way, whether it involves the person having a bad reputation because of the lie or it results in someone getting seriously hurt in a physical or a mental way. Leo and Diane Dillon’s vibrant illustrations are colorful and creative as they display the animals in a flat style and design the other animals to be larger than the mosquito (even though in reality, the mosquito is smaller than the other animals) which might suggest that the mosquito is more like a small pest while the other animals were trying to go about their business in the forest.
Parents should know that this story involves the death of a child and that would upset many sensitive children and adults. Many parents would feel sympathy for Mother Owl as one of her owlets gets killed and how distraught she was when she finds out about this incident as many parents who lost their children before would relate deeply to this situation. Also, small children might be frighten about he subject matter of death and parents need to reassure them about how they will always be there for their child and how death is apart of life (how you would explain to them about death is up to you).
“Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” is a wonderful and cautious book about the consequences of telling people lies and many children would surely enjoy this classic book for many generations. Of course, I would recommend this book for children ages five and older since it does deal with the death of a child.
* 1976 Reading Rainbow's 101 Best Children's Books