Book review

Beetle Boy by M G Leonard (2016)

Part one of the Beetle Trilogy

Scared of beetles? Have you ever met a really really big one, like say a stag beetle? Or a rhinoceros beetle?

...Darkus saw something black sitting on the glass. A creature...with seven legs...or was it six legs...and a horn?

Darkus Cuttle makes a lot of beetle friends in this story but he isn’t really thinking about beetles when we first meet him. He’s thinking much more about his father Dr Bartholomew Cuttle who has suddenly and most decisively disappeared from a locked room. It’s a horrible puzzle. The police can’t solve it and the investigation grinds to a halt. It’s a bad time for Darkus. His mother died when he was much younger so until he can find his father he is a bit of an orphan. His uncle, the famous archaeologist Maximilian Cuttle, finally turns up from the Sinai Desert and takes him home to live with him for the time being.

Actually I think Maximilian Cuttle is an ideal uncle. Archaeologists are excellent at searching and problem solving aren’t they? He makes Darkus a promise:

...‘I will do my level best to find out what’s happened to your father and bring him home. But if, as I suspect, the police aren’t going to be very helpful, we may have to do a bit of investigating on our own – and that will require grit and determination from both of us.’
‘You can count on me,’ Darkus said earnestly.
‘I knew I could.’ Uncle Max smiled.

Grit and determination. Yes. They’ll need a lot of that as it turns out...even when Darkus is making friends:

Darkus blinked and leant forward to get a better look. The beetle looked deadly – like a ninja warrior. A fierce tusk, sharp as a tiger’s claw, stuck out of its head, flanked by two smaller horns on its thorax.
...As it got closer, Darkus realized it was easily the size of a hamster. He wanted to get closer, but it was so alien-looking that he was a bit scared to approach it. He didn’t know if it might bite or sting – and that horn looked sharp.

Meet Baxter, the friendly rhinoceros beetle. He seems to understand everything Darkus says. He sits on Darkus’ shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. So not your common or garden, average, run-of-the-mill beetle then. It’s all rather puzzling. There seems to be a connection between the Entomology (Insect) Vaults where Dr Bartholomew Cuttle disappeared and the bizarre and rather squalid beetle mountain in the next door neighbours’ flat. Oh wait! Could this be the connection?

Two sparkling black sticks appeared, and then a woman’s head. Jet-black hair, gold lips, and then her body came lurching into view, leaning on the sticks. She wore a white laboratory coat over a long black dress, and every jarring movement of her body screamed out how angry she was.

Oh dear. Things are going to get much worse before they get better.

A pleasure to read. Darkus makes a couple of useful and totally huggable friends at his new school. Maximilian Cuttle is probably the best and certainly the most adventurous uncle in the world. The neighbours are beastly and Lucretia Cutter is yep, even worse than Cruella de Vil. Loved every page. Couldn’t turn them fast enough.

What can I read next?

Fun and terrifying. And, Oh good! It’s a trilogy. How could it not be with an arch enemy this hideous?

  • Beetle Boy
  • Beetle Queen
  • Battle of the Beetles

Actually real life can be wild and strange too. Did the beetles interest you? Next time you are in a library, or maybe just browsing the bookshelves at home, have a look at the wildlife section and take a peek inside an insect or beetle or butterfly book. Those weird life forms...they’re mind boggling and beautiful!

Surprising how often animals can help when you’re trapped in a sticky situation. If you enjoy Beetle Boy I think you should take a look at this brilliant trilogy by Piers Torday:

Enjoy your stories a bit wicked and a bit funny and sometimes a bit wickedly funny? I think you might enjoy almost anything by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell:

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