Award-Winning Books GB Challenges Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books Whodunit Reading Challenge

Bug Metaphors and a Kidnapped Queenie Bee: Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective by David Biedrzycki

I believe I have already mentioned previously that I am not a huge fan of animal stories. However, since we are actively on the lookout for picture books with a whodunit theme, I grabbed this book from out of our library’s bookshelves in relief the moment I set eyes on it: bug detective! Sounds like just the thing for our Whodunit Bimonthly theme this May/June. When I googled possible resources for this book, I was not surprised to note that it actually received quite a few awards, namely: the Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year, IRA Children’s Book Award, and a nomination for the North Carolina Children’s Book Award (source here).

A Case for Ace Lacewing. The first several pages managed to set the tone/voice of the entire book. I am not sure if you would get the same impression, but I just had this distinct sense that our Detective has a deep, throaty, kind-of-macho-sinister voice about him as he gives the reader a description of who he is and what he does:

It was a night like any other night in the city. Hot and sticky. Great weather if you’re a bug. Everyone’s a bug in Motham City. Some good, some bad.

Bad bugs are my business.

He seems like the throaty, cloak-and-daggery kind of guy with the deep voice.

I was in my office eating some aphid lo mein when the phone buzzed. I answered it.

“Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective.”

It was Mayor Buzzbee. Behind him it sounded like a beehive of activity. Actually, it was a beehive.

“What’s the buzz?” I asked.

“Ace!” said the mayor. “I’m at the Hive Rise with Princess Pollen. Queenie Bee’s been kidnapped. Get over here now!”

And so the case is presented. A missing Queenie Bee. A Honey Company that “makes the best honey in town” –> motive perhaps? And since we are talking about bugs here, we can’t possibly have our usual wolf/ fox/ rabid dog suspects. We have to be a tad more incisive in this case if we wish to have a ‘crack’ at whoever is behind this criminal activity.

Who is Doctor Xerces Blue? I like how the love-interest was introduced in the narrative. Seeing the beautiful Doctor Xerces Blue, I was kind of reminded of the tandem between Dr. Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth in the TV Series, Bones. This is how Ace describes his romance:

Looks a lot like loooove to me.

I was just about to fly out the door when I saw her standing there, like a moth drawn to a flame. Actually I was her flame, but she was no moth. She was the lovely rare butterfly, Xerces Blue. Doctor Xerces Blue. Not the kind of doctor who takes your tonsils out. The kind of doctor who studies bugs – dead bugs.

Hmm.. let me rewind the Temperance-Brennan-references, now I am reminded of Doctor Hodgins (also from Bones) who studies bugs!

Dr. Jack Hodgins in Bones. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

He is hardly as hot as our Doctor Xerces Blue who also happens to make a mean aphids a la mode. Hmm.. I wonder how that tastes.

Bug Metaphors, Insider Information, Honeyed Dangers. The investigation takes on a different twist when Ace’s childhood friend, Sergeant Zito, a mosquito found their star witness: and what do you know, it’s a talking little maggot.

‘I saw the whole thing!’ cried the maggot. ‘I was crawling around minding my own business when all of a sudden I heard all this screamin’. I thought maybe it was a damselfly in distress. But then I looked up and I saw ’em right outside the Hive Rise – a couple of hooded bugs running off with Queenie Bee!’

Our Star Witness

Sounds perfectly plausible all right, except for one tiny fact as could be seen in the image above: ‘He doesn’t have any eyes.’

By following a trail of honey, investigating various possible suspects (which include cockroaches, a molten cicada, a walking stick, and an assassin bug with his kisser), and insider information from a drone who knows the truth – they were led to the heart of the mystery: yes, there is betrayal, interesting twists, and royal blue (and bright oranges) everywhere.

The strength of this book lies in its astounding wit, atypical/non-cliched humor, and its vast knowledge of insect terminologies used with utmost precision as punchlines, and delivered with honeyed gusto and pitch-perfect timing.

The Lady saves the Day [and Helpful Links]. What also sets this book apart from others is that it makes use of gender-sensitive components with our kick-ass Dr. Xerces saving the day. Exactly how she was able to accomplish this, I shall leave for you to discover.

Our fearless detective and his antennae for finding clues.

As I was looking for possible resources, I came up with several book reviews on Ace Lacewing, namely from Curled up with a Good Kids’ Book and Homage to Children’s Lit. The latter also provides a few recommendations for teachers on how they can make use of this book inside the classroom.

About the Author: David Biedrzycki. In this lovely Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews website, I was regaled with a detailed biography of David Biedrzycki which he has written himself. He recalled that he began drawing at age four and created his first superhero, Jetman, a comic book, when he was in second grade. David also related that they did not have much money while he was growing up and he would look forward to having his mother come home on Friday night, bringing with her a stack of paper (with the menu on one side and a clean side at the back) from the restaurant where she works – this was how he began creating his artwork. To know more about him and his digital creations, click here to be taken to his official website.

Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective by David Biedrzycki. Charlesbridge, Watertown MA. 2005. Book borrowed from the community library.

PictureBook Challenge Update:  73 (of 72)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “Bug Metaphors and a Kidnapped Queenie Bee: Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective by David Biedrzycki

  1. This sounds like a great book. Love the bug metaphors and punchlines, very witty. Ever since James and The Giant Peach, I have been quite taken with bugs and creepy crawlies. (I loved A Bug’s Life as well) But only in books and t.v. not in real life. 🙂 You remind me of my nephew who isn’t a huge fan of animal stories unless they’re riding in jet planes or has a car. 🙂


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Haha. I suppose I am not averse to them either. I do read every now and again but it’s not like a regular kind of thing or my first choice if I had the chance. And yes, I have to agree, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Punchline is great. I believe this is a series. There are two more Ace Lacewing books if I am not mistaken. Will check them out at the library when I get back.


  2. I am loving your theme. We are fans of animal (especially creep crawly ones) books here, so I can’t wait to read this book with my boys. I ordered it online from our library, so we should have it soon. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Pingback: Books, Conferences, and Whodunits: A May Affair Round-up |

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