The Day the Dung Beetle Defeated the Dark (Estelle Cheuk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Day the Dung Beetle Defeated the Dark, written by Estelle Cheuk and illustrated by Arina Procenko, a tale of learning to love who you are.

One day, at Savannah School (a spelling that may frustrate American readers), all of the young animals are discussing their wild families and what makes them amazing – cheetahs are fast, meerkats are tough, giraffes are tall. All the critters find something to be proud of… that is, except for Scar the dung beetle. After being teased by her classmates, her father attempts to comfort her, but Scar still goes to bed wishing she could be anything but a dung beetle. The next day, however, the entire savanna wakes to darkness! Some naughty nocturnal animals have stolen the sun from the sky and hidden it, and nobody knows what to do. But Scar’s father has an idea, and it will lead him and Scar on an adventure that will show everyone that even little dung beetles can have mighty powers.

A solid story with uneven execution. Scar’s story is certainly a classic one, and one that does a great job exploring both the idea that our differences make us uniquely talented and capable, and that every creature (even the small and silly-sounding ones) can have some pretty awesome adaptations. However, this tends to be bogged down by overly-lengthy paragraphs of text and largely flat digital illustrations. Where the wildly inventive story, reminiscent of a classic pourqoui tale, works very well, there are details that feel distracting or unnecessary, such as the main character’s name being “Scar,” or overuse of the word “poo” during weighty emotional moments. The art absolutely goes for gold, but is limited by juvenile character design. Otherwise, while it does lean on the longer side, the length is not bad for a storytime. JJ mostly enjoyed the story, but it was difficult to keep her from giggling at the word “poo” during scenes that should have a more somber tone. There’s an ambitious story here, with art that the illustrator clearly put a good deal of effort into, but the final product is a bit uneven. Worth looking into, but temper expectations. Still, Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)