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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Bugs in a Blanket
by Beatrice Alemagna
Age Range: Under_5
This is a delightful story about insects that live in an old woollen blanket. Each little bug lives in its own tiny hole, and has never met any of the other bugs living in the blanket. It is Little Fat Bug’s birthday and he decides to invite all the other little bugs to his birthday party in a big hole in the middle of the blanket. Little Fat Bug has prepared some delicious blanket-dust cakes and found some great music, because little bugs like to dance and hop around. Little Fat Bug is really excited about his party but when he sees the other little bugs for the first time, he becomes upset and confused because none of them look like him at all!
There are thin bugs, big-eyed bugs, yellow bugs and speckled bugs, and they are all different. Little Fat Bug asks Little Thin Bug why he is so skinny and Little Thin Bug doesn’t know what to say and turns to the bug next to him and asks “ Well, how about you? Why are you as yellow as a banana?” Each little bug in turn asks the next little bug the same question until Little Speckled Bug becomes annoyed and turns to Little Fat Bug and asks “Well then, why are you fat like a hippopotamus?” Little Fat Bug is incensed: “What a silly thing to ask. I don’t know! I was just born like this, a little bit fat”, forgetting that he started off the questions in the first place! The bugs finally realise that they are all different, just because they are.
The story ends on a simple and humorous note: “Because you see, in the blanket just as in the rest of the world, we can’t choose what we look like – we are all born the way we are, and we’re all different. After all, only a silly little bug wouldn’t know that”.
Quirky, with a contemporary look and a message about difference, tolerance and identity, Beatrice Alemagna approaches this theme in a manner that is simple and funny. She uses repetitive language to make the story both comical and direct for young children. It is also unique for its stunning visual style of wool embroidery and collage. Alemagna invented a whole new technique of illustration for this book; in order to evoke the hairiness and dustiness she used a mixture of felted wool technique and an amalgam of appliqué, fabrics and stitching that creates a texture-rich world reminiscent of wool and old blankets.
Alemagna is a celebrated author and illustrator in many parts of Europe and the Far East but here in the UK we have been deprived of her wonderful work. Phaidon are to be congratulated for bringing us this delightful and inventive book which will become a firm favourite with children.