Review: Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books/Random House of Canada Limited via Netgalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 25, 2015 by Tundra Books
Verdict: Very Good/Excellent
A bug flies through an open door into a house, through a bathroom, across a kitchen and bedroom and into a living room … where its entire life changes with the switch of a button. Sucked into the void of a vacuum bag, this one little bug moves through denial, bargaining, anger, despair and eventually acceptance — the five stages of grief — as it comes to terms with its fate. Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel? Will there be dust bunnies in the void? A funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum.
When I first read that popular Canadian author/illustrator Mélanie Watt would be releasing a picture book titled Bug in a Vacuum, I must admit that I was hooked by the title alone. Would it- could it- really be about a bug in a vacuum? What would be the core of the story? To my genuine surprise and delight, Watt has written and illustrated a children’s story based upon the five stages of grief.
We’re introduced to lively Bug, who, by all appearances, is having a lovely day. Bug has escaped the reach of a dog named Napoleon and is zigzagging through a house. But then, at the top of the world (resting on a globe), Bug gets sucked into a vacuum. What a cruel twist of fate!
What then follows is the reader accompanying Bug as he works his way through denial, bargaining, anger, despair and acceptance. Lest you wonder whether Bug can convey and express these intense stages, do not fret. Watt, I think, does a rather brilliant job of writing and illustrating the five distinct and fierce emotions through Bug’s vantage point, while providing wit and comic relief . Additionally, running parallel to Bug’s story is Napoleon going through the same five stages- albeit wordlessly- as he loses his favourite toy to the vacuum. I quite enjoyed this secondary story as it not only adds another layer of humour and visual interest but also a varying finale.
A thoughtful story, a unique story; a story that offers things to think about with each reading. I think both adults and children alike will find much to love, ponder and see in each reading (the level of detail in the illustrations is pretty incredible). As far as I can recall, there is definitely not a plethora of current picture books about the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, or grief in general, so Mélanie Watt’s offering is extremely welcome. Overall, this picture book is wonderfully accomplished and one that I would definitely recommend to readers young and old.
I received this book as a digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books/Random House of Canada Limited via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.