HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Break-Out at the Bug Lab
Author: Ruth Horowitz
Illustrator: Joan Holub
Publisher: Puffin, 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0756912079 (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0756912075 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0142302002 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 0142302007 (paperback)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Horwitz, Ruth. Break-Out at the Bug Lab (published in 2002 by Puffin). Have you ever seen a Madagascar hissing cockroach in a zoo or natural history museum? They are huge! In this funny, contemporary Easy-to-Read Puffin early reader, Leo and his brother think their mom has a neat job studying bugs at a nature lab that’s just received a grant, and there’s going to be a party. Max, a Madagascar cockroach, is as big as a bite-sized candy bar and hisses like a snake when he is mad. The boys are fascinated. Out of all of the bugs in their mother’s bug lab, Max is definitely the best. However, as they’re preparing for the ceremony, the giant cockroach escapes from his glass cage. The two youngsters find the bug but just can’t catch him. Help comes from a mysterious woman named “One-Shot L” with an unusual talent. Will they get Max before he makes people, especially the grant donor who is the guest of honor, scream–or worse?
The text by author Ruth Horowitz, written with a clever mix of sight and easy-to-sound-out words, reads less like a beginning reader and more like a real chapter book. It has a plot, a problem, and a solution, with a loving mother, and a great conclusion, resulting in a tale that is hilarious and has a surprise ending. Even the illustrations by artist Joan Holub, with their rounded lines in bright shades of blue and yellow, have a warm, fuzzy, feel-good look to them. The entire book is filled with humor and suspense and contains a number of fun facts woven into the lively, fast-paced story. It is not a gross bug book but a story about problem solving and honesty, building up children’s creativity and teaching them a lesson about how to make sure they finish a task completely before they walk away and something bad happens. The only sour note for some parents will be the statement, “Our mom . . . looks at dung beetles. They eat animal poop!” We checked this book out of the library when our younger son Jeremy was learning how to read to give him extra practice.