Review by Booklist Review
Freda loves to experience life on her own terms, quietly ignoring the well-intentioned warnings of other concerned townsfolk. She scales tall trees ("You'll be swept away by the clouds!") and swims in the bay ("You'll be gulped down by a carp!"), as following her instincts often leads to the loveliest surprises. When Freda notices an injured beetle in the road, she insists on taking it home and nursing it back to health, though the naysaying neighbors promise it will only bring trouble. Under Freda's care, the silent blue beetle, dubbed Ernest, grows into an enormous, hard-working member of the town, but when a prize sheep goes missing, the increasingly ravenous beetle is wrongfully blamed. This fanciful fairy tale is a curious and winning narrative on its own, but the gorgeous accompanying pen-and-watercolor illustrations strengthen the enchantment even further. A wonderfully odd gem of a story that speaks to the importance of living a just and fulfilling life on one's own terms.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Dark-haired Freda lives alone in a community of farmers and shepherds who are full of gloomy predictions. She ignores them, finding "that not listening... often led to wonderful discoveries"--Gilmore paints Freda cavorting with walruses in the local bay. Then she happens upon a periwinkle-blue beetle. "It'll bite your toes while you sleep," the townsfolk warn; Freda takes him home and names him Ernest. He grows quickly and proves a capable laborer, able to do almost anything--but he keeps eating, and sometimes consuming food that isn't his, infuriating the townsfolk. In the story's darkest moment, remorseful Freda abandons Ernest in the forest before justice eventually triumphs. Gilmore's lilting storybook prose ("she took a measured breath, and whispered to the wind") is paired with earth-toned paintings that enliven the small village, its inhabitants, and Ernest's marvelous deeds (in one moment, he watches over sheep by night). Gilmore's (Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast) fantasy is both startling and believable as Freda and her faithful companion stand fast against the small-minded elders who threaten them: "Sometimes we should only listen to ourselves." Ages 4--8. (Apr.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Thanks to an oversized, mute blue beetle, a girl gets a lesson in the importance of following her own advice. Freda is fed--and ignores--a series of dire warnings from the townsfolk in her small community. She enjoys exploring outdoors, knowing that avoiding their dogmatic advice leads to "wonderful discoveries." She befriends a broken-winged beetle, giving it food, companionship, and a name. Ernest heals, grows in size and strength, and assists in the fields. When the townsfolk tire of his need for sustenance and wrongly accuse him of a crime, Freda sadly escorts Ernest out of town. Gilmore takes the townsfolk's paranoia to an extreme (if you swim there, carp will eat you, they declare) to accentuate her point about the value of heeding one's own instincts. Freda, feeling shame for having bowed to ridiculous demands, remembers that sometimes we should "listen to ourselves." Gilmore's palette is a muted, earth-toned one save for the bright cobalt blue of Ernest. Freda is an olive-skinned girl, and the townsfolk are primarily white with some diversity included--a couple of dark-skinned people, a woman who could be Asian, and a man in a turban. In the end, not only does Freda remember to follow her heart, but Ernest also saves the day in this oddball tale. (Insects that grow larger than humans, anyone?) This story about thinking for oneself is sweetly quirky and far from saccharine. (Picture book. 4-10) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.