Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1976

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

by Verna Aardema

illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon

New York: Dial Books, 1975

28 pp.

Age: 4+

Interests: jungle animals, African folktales, mosquitoes

Also by this author: Who’s in Rabbit’s House?, Oh Kojo! How could you!

Also by these illustrators: Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions

Mosquito tells a lie, which annoys Iguana and sets off a chain reaction through the jungle which finally results in the accidental death of a baby owl. Mother Owl is so distraught she will not call for the sun to rise. King Lion calls a meeting to find out who is to blame, and the trail of evidence slowly makes its way back to Mosquito. Mosquito hides to avoid punishment, and ever since then has been whining in people’s ears: “Zeee! Is everyone still angry at me?” For which she always gets the same answer – slap!

A West African tale retold with gorgeous, very modern illustrations. The various animals are highly stylized and yet fully expressive. And when the various animals give their version of events, the illustrations show the negative light each casts on the animal they feel is to blame. Ie. Monkey accidentally knocked a branch down which killed the owlet, but when Mother Owl tells it we see an angry monkey with teeth bared, wielding a club.

Reading this story aloud calls for various sound effects which make the book fun for all – the iguana lumbers along badamin badamin, and the python slithers along wasawusu wasawusu wasawusu. The story swings along quickly through the chain of events, which is a great lesson in cause and effect, and may provoke a discussion – can the mosquito really be blamed for the owlet’s death?

Colourful, jazzy version of an African folktale.

(This title on amazon.)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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