From Elise Gravel, winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration, comes the Disgusting Critters series, an amusing group of books for beginning readers that successfully mixes fact and humour to introduce youngsters to creatures gros and small. The first two books in the series focus on worms and flies, and while they are chock full of great information, Gravel also packs each book with enough laugh-out-loud jokes and vibrant illustrations to keep the tone light and entertaining.
It becomes clear that The Worm is not your average fact book within the first couple of pages. A beret-wearing earthworm greets readers with a friendly “Enchanté!,” followed by a macho worm flexing its muscles and a whistling worm driving a recycling truck. In addition to the visual gags, Gravel includes basic facts about the creepers, such as their ability to sense light without eyes, the manner in which they get around, and the food they like to eat.
Opportunities for jokes abound in The Fly, which focuses on the common housefly and its fondness for all things revolting. Gravel takes obvious joy in detailing the housefly’s typical meals, which include such savoury delights as garbage-juice soup, dirty diapers, and doggie doo (cue the squeals of revulsion and giggling). The Muscidae family (to which the housefly belongs) is depicted with Mom, Dad, a younger sibling, and a slouchy adolescent fly, complete with baseball cap and requisite “Yo” greeting.
Though they can be classified as non-fiction, Gravel’s books, with their bouncing humour, fast pace, and visual treats, would not feel out of place alongside Tedd Arnold’s popular Fly Guy fiction series. The interplay of text and illustration should strike all the right notes for gross-out loving young readers.