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Beetle Queen (The Battle of the Beetles) Paperback – April 6, 2017
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In this book, M. G. Leonard has continued an intriguing story; she allows the mystery of Lucretia’s intent to deepen. Further, she weaves excitement and humor, both hallmarks of “Beetle Boy”, as well as interesting, educational elements – particularly relating to different beetles – into the text. The result is that the reader does not realize they are learning something. Issues such as genetic engineering, cross-species breeding, and ecology and the environment play important roles in the novel.
Characters are relatable – Darkus and his friends Virginia and Bertolt are those ‘tweens who are outside the popular circle, but who support and encourage one another. Their issues with asserting their own independence and with parental involvement/non-involvement ring true. The nefarious Madame Lucretia Cutter – formerly Lucy Johnstone – is a Cruella devil of bugs; she is also proving the term “mad scientist” to take on real meaning. The cousins Humphrey and Pickering are like the buffoonish thieves Horace and Jasper Badun in Disney’s “101 Dalmations”. Young readers will laugh aloud at their antics. Madame Cutter’s daughter Novak continues to evolve. Once an unappealing character, she is now one for whom the reader feels pity.
This book is more intense and frightening than “Beetle Boy”. Nevertheless, “Beetle Queen” should appeal to many ‘tween readers, particularly those who are interested in science. It is also a good bedtime read-aloud for older primary-school aged children. The characters are varied in personality and motivation. Strong, independent female characters, whether good or villainous, are as important as the male characters. The story draws the reader further into the intriguing mystery; this is not a difficult book to read, but it is slower than “Beetle Boy”. I enjoyed “Beetle Queen”, but recommend you read “Beetle Boy” first so that you can fully understand and enjoy M. G. Leonard’s latest book.