Title: Du Iz Tak?
Author and illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: Walker Books
RRP: $24.99

Two insects meet as a small plant begins to grow out of the ground. At the same time a caterpillar crawls up a branch coming from a large log. He hangs triumphantly upside down before spinning a cocoon. The seedling grows into a magnificently flowering plant as the insects call on the inhabitant of the large log. They make a house in the pant as it grows but there is a threat, a very large spider also wants this plant for a home. The insects can only watch as it spins its web, and tension builds as a bird swoops. All the while, the cocoon hangs, seemingly to be the only unchanging element in the scene. When it hatches the landscape alters with the changing seasons.

This is a wonderful creation. The verbal text is an invented language allowing the reader to make his or her own narrative. With repeated words it would be easy to create translations into the language of the reader. The setting, a small microcosm of the insect world, could be in any reader’s garden. This is truly a global book.

Characters are anthropomorphic insects enlarged for the narrative. This is certainly evident when the bird swoops, causing much distress. Young readers will be able to ascertain the names of the characters and the context of their talk. The opportunities for discussions and activities with students about the nature of language abound.

The front angle viewpoint is the same throughout. It is as though the reader is viewing the scene as they are lying on their stomach, on the ground. Just a small strip of earth can be seen as it borders the bottom of the each double page spread.

The verbal language is displayed as speech. Lines connect the speaker with the text. This intraiconic text disrupts the distinction between the verbal and visual, blurring the two into the text of a true picturebook. Working with the invented language, it is a most unusual and original use of the narrator’s voice to position the reader.

Topics this book can be used with in the classroom include life cycles, seasons, and the functions of language.

Reading this to a young crowd would be a lot of fun. The opportunities to integrate this book into classroom activities and public library story time sessions are endless. Some suggestions are:

  • The illustrations are enlarged as though the viewer is looking through a magnifying glass or binoculars. Make a pair of binoculars out of cardboard roll, or make a magnifying glass, and go outside to investigate the insect world.
  • Document insects you see in your garden.
  • Research spiders, how many eyes do some spiders have? What breed do you think this spider might be?
  • Translate the language into your own words. Can you infer what the characters are saying? How and why? This can lead to a discussion about the function of language.
  • Research life cycles of a butterfly or moth and flower.
  • Make a garden diorama.

Thank you to Walker Books for supplying this book for review.