Reviewed by Jenny Heslop
After the disappearance of his dad, Darkus is sent to live with his Uncle Max. The police seem to think his father ran away and have given up looking for him. So with the help of his uncle, his two new friends and the strange beetles that live in the dump next door, Darkus sets out to rescue his father.
This story hooked me straight away and I was surprised by just how much I loved it. Darkly humorous, the storyline is quirky and unique, with a huge dose of magical realism which sneaks up on the reader. The characters too, are wonderfully quirky, and though some appear on the surface to be a little clichéd, they become less so as the surface is scratched.
Darkus, brave and resourceful, becomes friends with two unlikely kids Bertold and Virginia. They are full of life and jump whole-heartedly into the adventure with him – although Bertold has to overcome his uneasiness with bugs. The ridiculous and horrible cousins who live next door are spectacular in their nastiness, and the vibrantly vile villain Lucretia Cutter has one redeeming feature, a beautiful daughter/fair damsel in distress Novak, to whom Darkus can appeal for help. Even Uncle Max who warned Darkus ‘Adventures are dangerous, Darkus, and villains are real.’ was up for helping the kids rescue his Darkus’ dad.
Darkus, Virginia and Bertold have the ultimate base camp from which to plan their moves. A den buried deep in a heap of furniture on enemy territory, with many different tunnels, escape routes and booby traps. This is the ultimate in cubby houses!
And then there are the beetles which include Baxter, Newton, Marvin and Hepburn. These are beetles unlike any I’ve seen or read about before. Larger than your average beetle, they have the advantage of being able to communicate with humans through body language - but only if the human in question cares to look closely enough. And it’s a good thing these beetles are on the side of good – aka Darkus and his friends – as they can provide a whole army.
This is an appealing book on many levels. The cover is eye catching, reflecting the humour and subject of the story inside, with beetles and insects climbing across the fore edge. Scattered throughout the pages are fabulous little illustrations of the beetles and people as well. It is an adventurous tale of a daring quest, with many nail-biting moments balanced out by very funny scenes.
Beetle Boy is for lovers of danger, quirkiness, beetles and great story telling. It will delight readers from the age of 10 years (but is a solid /lengthy read) and has an entomologist’s dictionary at the end for those who are beginners in the world of insects.
And better still, it is the first of a trilogy.