Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt

Bug in a Vacuum
by Melanie Watt
Bug in a Vacuum is not the typical Watt book. In her latest book, which will be released August 25, 2015, a bug flies past the family dog and into the house. As it flies in the house it passes an aerosol can of Dandelion Repellent. This is the first time the observant reader notices the book does not take place in the present. The vacuum inside the door reminds me of my maternal grandmother’s old Electrolux.  
As the bug continues to fly around the house, through the bathroom, the kitchen, bedroom, and finally the living room glimpses of retro furniture (TV dinner on the Formica tabletop) and décor (hula lamp and globe) help to determine the setting as the mid 1960s.

It is in the living room everything changes for the bug and for the careful observer, the family dog. As the dog sits on the sofa the vacuum sucks up his favorite toy. Moments later the bug , which has landed on the globe, disappears into the inner bowels of the vacuum.  Both creatures then begin their grieving.

From here, the book is divided into small chapters focusing on each of the five stages of grief. The first, denial is represented by the can we first saw as the bug flew into the house – denial. The dog’s denial is portrayed through thought bubbles, while the bug is verbal trying to communicate with the other items eaten by the giant vacuum. Each subsequent stage: bargaining, anger, despair, and acceptance is presented in a similar manner. The story ends with the vacuum being thrown out and picked up by the waste service. As the little dog runs after the truck he meets a new friend and seems to move on with his life. When the truck arrives at the land fill, the vacuum crashes to the ground where the back of the unit falls open allowing the bug to escape. I love the final image of the two dogs looking at each other as the sun goes down, while in the foreground a mother bird watches over her eggs which are slightly hidden by the favorite toy.

Bug in a Vacuum has been described as “a funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum,” but I think it is SO much more. Yes, portions of the book are humorous, but the underlying message in the book is that no matter what trials and tribulations we must face in life with patience, perseverance, and belief in oneself we will be able to overcome and move on.

Melanie Watt (best known to my library friends as the mother of Scaredy Squirrel, Leon the Chameleon, and Chester the Cat) presents a 96-page picture book which takes the reader through the five stages of grief, also known as the Kὕbler-Ross model. A brief mention of the Kὕbler-Ross model is explained at the end of the book as “a series of emotions commonly experienced when facing a life-changing event.” The model was first introduced in 1969 by the Swiss     psychiatrist in her book On Death and Dying. The five stages can occur in any order, and may not be experienced by all facing life-altering events.

Watt has found a unique way in which to present these stages to young children without preaching. If this book is needed for bibliotherapy  then wonderful discussions and comparisons can be made throughout, if not the story can be enjoyed simply for the wonderful presentation created by this incredibly talented author / illustrator.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Bug in a Vacuum for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is strictly my opinion.

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