Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 7 to 9
- Grade: 2 to 4
- Reading age: 7 to 9
Accompanied by quirky line drawings by Spanish illustrator Erica Salcedo, this is a gently humorous and remarkably informative nature-adventure story about an unlikely pointy-nosed hero with big dreams and an even bigger heart.
After he nearly drowns in a parking-lot puddle, Dinnn Needles is fearful of many things, including flying. When his four hundred siblings swarm off without him, he finds time to dream —about family stories, a lost brother, adventure in The Wild and, above all, how to be cool.
At school in an abandoned air-conditioner, Dinnn learns about the deadly Pondhawk dragonfly and other dangers that lie beyond his home under a drive-in theater screen. But Dinnn never really takes to city life. Lonely and left out, he is filled with an unexplained longing. He sips spilled cola from abandoned pop cans, but it is not as tasty as flower nectar. He tries to make friends with the local street mosquitoes, but that just lands him in a sewer filled with spiders and water snakes. He hears about the red mini-van that brought his parents together and wonders about his extended family in the country. He even finds a great black jacket in a roadside ditch, but it doesn’t make him cool.
And then one day, as fate would have it, the red mini-van reappears, giving Dinnn a chance to visit to his relatives in The Wild, where new perils await an inexperienced city mosquito — being struck by a raindrop, zapped by a porch light or snapped up by a hungry fish at dusk. But in the end Dinnn discovers that being cool is a matter of what you do, especially for one’s friends and family, including two new brothers.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
About the authors
Griffin Ondaatje is the author of The Camel in the Sun, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber, which was selected for the Austria Children’s Book Prize, shortlisted for the Middle East Book Award, and has been translated into German and Korean. He is also the editor of The Monkey King and Other Stories, a collection of South Asian stories, folktales and legends, and the director of Complete Unknown, a documentary film about Bob Dylan. He has three children and lives with his family in Toronto.
Erica Salcedo has a Master’s degree in graphic design and illustration from the University of Valencia. She lives in Cuenca, Spain.
Ondaatje weaves his make-believe entomological utopia with a plethora of well-researched 'did-you-know' facts.
A compelling coming-of-age tale. . . . Recommended.
Despite references to mosquitos’ short life spans and other trivia, Ondaatje keeps the actual bloodsucking and insect mortality to a minimum, focusing on Dinnn’s initial fear of flight and on his large family’s light misadventures.
A light and entertaining allegory about overcoming fear, being true to yourself, and finding your wings.
Quill & Quire