Saturday, March 2, 2024


Sandra Severgnini (author and illustrator)
Exisle Publishing, $24.99

I loved Tree Beings by Raymond Huber (author) and Sandra Severgnini (illustrator), which meant I was very eager to see Severgnini’s Grub.

I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s a simpler book, targeted at younger readers 5-8 years old, but packed with a number of important themes, including metamorphosis, life cycles and self-awareness.

Grub lives in a hollow log deep in a rainforest and he can sense his body is about to change.

The question he’d most like to answer is, “What will I become?”

One by one he asks the ladybird, the cicada, the dragonfly and the monarch butterfly whether he will look like they do when he’s transformed.

One by one they tell him what they’d looked like before they metamorphosed – all different to Grub and his white caterpillar body.

Grub eats and eats preparing for the great unknown.

He creates a shell from his droppings (to protect him during his pupa stage) and when he emerges from it, he is a Hercules beetle. At the end of the book we learn that Hercules beetles are one of the largest species of beetles in the world. Also, this beetle is believed to be one of the strongest creatures on earth for its size, being able to carry 850 times its own body weight.

The story shows the Hercules beetle at different stages of development alongside other insects and their transformations. These changes are reinforced by clever Endpapers which show the nymphs, larvae and caterpillars up front and the mature insects they’ve transformed into at the back.

Along the way, readers are given a sense of the rainforest in all its beauty and diversity, with pages of colourful flowers like Bird of Paradise and Passionfruit flowers interspersed with illustrations of Grub’s broodier habitat down on the forest floor.

Seeing how the insects change in Grub, should encourage children to observe how their own bodies are changing as they grow older and to ask, “What will I become?” This questioning could include how their interests and appearance might mature and what kind of work they might want to pursue.

Severgnini said she was inspired to create Grub by “the amazing things going on around us in nature that we don’t see”.

I’m glad she’s brought the life cycle of the Hercules beetle into the light in such an intriguing and aesthetically pleasing way.

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