Written by Jennifer Angus
What would it be like to talk to insects? In this Victorian-era tale, we meet ten-year-old Henri Bell, a British boy who discovers this special ability while spending the summer with his great aunt in America. Talking to six-legged creatures is the only bright spot in Henri’s life as his mother has traveled to the other side of the world to search for his missing father. Even though Henri’s great aunt is kind, her neighbor, Mrs. Black, unnerves him with her creepy stares, peculiar behavior, and cruelty toward insects.
A visit to the circus changes Henri’s life forever. After attending Maestro Antonio’s Flying Flea Circus, Henri uses his new communication skills to transform the act into something much better and receives an invitation to be Maestro’s assistant. Wanting to get away from Mrs. Black, Henri runs away with the circus. On the road, he forms a familial bond with many of the performers except for the strange fortuneteller, Madame Noir. Later, he learns that Madame Noir is, in fact, the fearsome Mrs. Black. Why is she following him?
Turns out Henri and his nemesis have something in common: an interest in the elusive Goliathus Hercules, a supposed gigantic beetle that has never been captured. Henri’s father was last searching for this beetle before he disappeared and Henri spends the next three years of his life on a worldwide quest to find the creature and hopefully get some answers. Meanwhile, his body endures a strange physical transformation – he is slowly morphing into an insect. Why is this happening? This is where the plot stumbles. Too many unanswered questions and convenient plot points (suddenly Henri’s whole entourage can talk insect – huh?) left this reviewer completely “bugged.” Fourth grade readers may be more forgiving, however, as the characters are likeable; the talking insects are amusing; and there’s an exciting duel plus a surprise twist at the end. Fourth graders may also enjoy the author’s website (www.jenniferangus.com), which includes a link to folklore stories, facts, games, and other insect-related literature.
- Title: In Search of Goliathus Hercules
- Author: Jennifer Angus
- Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
- Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
- Hardcover: 352
- ISBN: 978-0-8075-2990-4
- Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
- Lexile Score: 780