Review by Jem Genis
Beginning with the dedication “For my sister, a friend of pill bugs,” Hank’s Big Day: The Story of a Bug tells the tale of Hank, a pill bug who lives beneath a big rock. During his day Hank crawls past several fellow insects. He scales a stick, and crosses a treacherous sidewalk (where he is narrowly missed by a skateboard)—all to meet up with his long time best friend. This friend is Amelia, a human girl sporting an aviator hat whose hero is Amelia Earhart. While no words are exchanged, their friendship is shown through their imaginative play, as they cross the Atlantic Ocean, visit Paris, and more. At the end of the day, Hank crawls back to his cozy rock home.
Although the book has no text, the reader can tell Hank is the protagonist due to the bug’s eye perspective maintained for the majority of the story. The reader follows Hank as he crawls over and across numerous obstacles. When Hank reaches Amelia and crawls atop her hat, the reader can appreciate Hank’s whole world, viewed from his new, elevated perspective, across a colorful and detailed double page spread. You see a ball and a stick Hank crept past as well as Hank’s little rock home from which his journey started.
This book’s naturally colored art cleverly depicts the passing of time by including obstacles previously cleared by Hank in the background of later pages. Hank journeys to Amelia, then does the same journey in reverse to travel home. In addition, the author employs small arrows into the artwork to point out cute details such as “Hank’s house” or “Hank’s exercise stick”. These elements make it an engaging read for young audiences. The story is playful in design and the consistency and repetition within images works to make a whole world for a young reader to explore as the tale progresses.
I found this book unique and enjoyable. The idea of a pill bug friend—when there are so many books about kids befriending kittens and puppies—feels like a breath of fresh air. In the best of circumstances, the story may even help young readers reflect on insects as creatures with their own lives rather than something to be afraid of. The simple art style made up of round shapes depicts Hank and other insects as being quite friendly and approachable.
Hank’s Big Day: The Story of a Bug
by Evan Kuhlman. Ill Chuck Groenink
Schwartz & Wade Books. 2016
Jem is a college freshmen who welcomes all bugs, big and small.