The Insect Zoo and the Wildcat Hero
Ellen Pilon is a library assistant in the Patrick Power Library at Saint
Mary’s University in Halifax.
Lee Taylor has written a delightful children’s book with love of baseball a central theme. Buster, the grade five protagonist, eagerly anticipates the first baseball practice of the season: “he sprinted across the small park to the diamond.... He felt as if he’d just come home after a long winter vacation.” Buster’s team, the Cougars, suffers a longstanding rivalry with the town’s other baseball team, the Pirates, a group of bullies who try to win by antagonizing and demoralizing the Cougars before the game. The Pirates seem older than ten, probably because they are necessarily drawn as Meanies with all the required nastiness and we perceive them from the point of view of a Cougar, as a definite threat to our well-being on and off the field.
Baseball is Buster’s life and is the story: the team getting together, holding a carnival to raise money for new equipment, playing the games. Suspense builds as the last game approaches, Cougars vs. Pirates. Another part of Buster’s life is his sister, Maggie, a 9-year-old child prodigy with a fondness for entomology and her own Insect Zoo. Lee Taylor blends these two themes together in a well-written, smooth-flowing story. Dialogue, which forms most of the book, is short and natural, easy for the young reader to follow. Words are well chosen, with a few longer ones included here and there. The characters are well drawn, despite their rather artificial names: Buster, Chubbs, Pee Wee, Chewy, Rip, Slim, Slugger. A great deal of information on baseball and insects is offered to the reader in this interesting, often funny, very well written story.