Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
Tundra Books 2015
The Story: A wee little fly and a dog’s favorite stuffed toy get sucked into a vacuum, causing both the fly and dog to experience the five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, despair, anger, and acceptance.
What Wallace and I Think: Grief and the stages one goes through to cope with it is such a unique and interesting topic for a picturebook. I especially appreciate that Watt explores two types of grief within the text. For the dog, whose favorite toy has been sucked in the vacuum, it is grief over losing a loved one (and no, the dog does not get his toy back, which teaches a valuable lesson about loss). For the bug, who suddenly finds himself stuck in a vacuum, it is grief that comes from an expected and uncontrollable change (so your child might relate to this in terms of having to move, change schools, start a new school/daycare ect). What is particularly nice is that Watt deals with this heavy subject matter with humour. The picturebook is not a downer, nor does it trivialize the bug and dog’s grief. It strikes a perfect balance of respecting the characters’ emotions with humour. It is a book you can come back to with your child, or yourself J, when a sudden change or loss has occurred to help give voice to difficult emotions. Plus there is a happy ending, leaving the reading on a positive note.
I enjoyed the art in the book immensely. There is very little text, so most of the story is told through images and clever advertisements on household items with jokes hidden in the ads for the adult reading to their little ones, which also gives the whole setting a very 50s-60s Mad Men ad feel (in other words, Don Draper would approve of this book). There is TONS to look at on each page, making this a book that would be ideal for re-readings, and probably one kids will be asking to be read again. With there being so little text, it is one younger kids can “re-read” on their own.The book is longer than your average picturebook. More bang for your buck! But because it’s longer, be aware that the first time reading it may have to extend past one story time. However, when you’ve gone through it once and know the story, I think rereading could go quicker with your child wanting to flip to favorite parts, and maybe focusing on different pages with each reading.
This would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s library. The bug is feisty, the dog is adorable, and the message is important. I’m passionate about destigmatizing mental health issues, and picturebooks like Watt’s is a step towards doing so. This could be read to children as young as toddlers, and could be an interesting teaching tool in classrooms with elementary age children.
And of course Wallace likes anything that features a dog, so he gives it five paws.