The Bug Collector
Alex G. Griffiths
New Frontier, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
George loves Sundays because that’s the day he goes on an excursion with his grandfather. Today they go to the Museum of Wildlife but instead of stopping to look at the dinosaurs, whales and other wondrous creatures, Grandad takes him to Insect World. Immediately George is captivated and can think of nothing else on his way home. He even dreams about them! Next day, he arms himself with a host of bug collecting equipment and once he gets the knack of catching them, it’s not long before he has his own collection all lined up in jars in his treehouse. But Grandad is not as excited to see them as George anticipates. In fact, he is the opposite – and George learns the role that bugs play in keeping the environment healthy and flourishing. Clever Grandad also has a solution…
To many, bugs and minibeasts are things to be afraid of and are stomped on, sprayed or otherwise disposed of without thought to their purpose or place in nature’s hierarchy. Certainly, anything with eight legs or more can expect doom inside my house. But as George learns, they do have a vital role in the ecology and so this is an excellent book to introduce young readers to this and help them develop a healthy appreciation and respect for them from the get-go.
Based on his own childhood memories of his relationship with his grandfather and their time together in the garden, this is one that can have wide appeal because no matter what sort of garden we have access to, even if it’s just a hoop of grass on the playground, it is amazing the diversity of wildlife that exists there and the learning that can springboard from that. Perhaps the playground will be transformed in the same way George’s garden was. Then, if investigating minibeasts doesn’t appeal, there is always the relationship the child has with an older person, grandfather or other, and the memories they share and will share with their children.
Griffiths says that this is his first foray into actually creating the story to go with his illustrations and that he found it quite difficult, but the end result is so rich and so relatable for every young reader that he should be ecstatic about the result. It’s certainly taken this grown-up to a happy, nostalgic place and hopefully I can provide my grandchildren with some memories too.