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Roberto, The Insect Architect Hardcover – September, 2000
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"Even when Roberto was little, he went against the grain. Like most termites, he melted over maple, and pined for pine. Oak was okay, too. But Roberto didn't eat his food. He played with it."
Young Roberto has a burning desire to become an architect. Even when the other termites mock his ambition, Roberto is never derailed from his dream. So, like so many career-minded youth, this mite with a mission sets off for the big, buggy city. Here, sadly, he is thwarted by his heroes, Hank Floyd Mite and Fleas Van Der Rohe. But this inspired insect decides not to wallow in his sorrows but to help out other bugs with even greater problems. Soon, a fantastic, eclectic housing development is in the works. The mysterious architect chooses to remain anonymous, but ultimately can't avoid the grateful adulation of the carpenter ants, ladybugs, and house flies he has helped.
Nina Laden's fantastic collages use old catalog and magazine images, blueprints, cork veneer, and lots more, to create buildings, cities, and buggy creatures the likes of which you've never seen. The Leaning Tower of Pisa tilts away from the Empire State Building, with Gaudi's quirky sculptural edifices looming nearby. Some of the hilarious wordplay may fly over the heads of non-architects, but the overall humorous effect--and the go-for-your-goals message--will not be lost on anyone. For more charming and artistic pun-ishment, try Laden's When Pigasso Met Mootisse. (Ages 6 to 11) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
This good-natured tale, whose striking collages incorporate wood products and city photographs, introduces a termite who "went against the grain.... Roberto didn't eat his food. He played with it." While other termites picnic on "wood chips" and shotgun shacks, Roberto yearns to build with boards. He also exhibits a philanthropic streak. His first project is a neighborhood for homeless bugs, including a fireproof stone dwelling for a ladybug whose first house, per the nursery rhyme, burned down. Laden (When Pigasso Met Mootisse) wittily imagines a termite with a social conscience, one who ensures that bedbugs have "their very own beds." She incorporates woodworking tools into her bug-themed spreads and creates furniture from carefully cropped pieces of cork and veneer. Ant-like Roberto hunches over a mahogany-brown drafting table, busily drawing blueprints for a milk-carton shelter and a conical hive with neat circular windows. Even if children don't get the gags about Hank Floyd Mite (seated at a Guggenheim-shaped desk with a sketch of Fallingwater) and Fleas Van Der Rohe, nonstop insect quips and humorous bug house illustrations keep this book buzzing along. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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We love this story so much we donated it to our local library who didn't have a copy in their inventory. The pages are full of small captions (almost like a comic book) so older kids who can read for themselves will be very entertained; if you read the book to younger children, you can skip those and stick to the main text or else you'll lose the main thread and also sit there forever (but that doesn't have to be a bad thing).