Freda always listens when the other townsfolk tell her what to do. Yet that doesn’t stop her from setting off on her own adventures, and one day she discovers an injured blue beetle. After taking him home and naming him Ernest, he soon thrives and grows huge—as does his appetite. When a prized ewe goes missing, the townsfolk suspect Ernest and complain until Freda finally listens and forces him away. However, after a sudden emergency, Freda knows Ernest is the only one who can help—but will he hear her?
Author Sophie Gilmore leans into an idea not often explored in picture books: learning when not to listen to someone is just as important as learning to listen at all. She does this by setting the villagers up as concerned neighbors, but soon their actions turn to obvious meddling. When they come between Freda and her new best friend—a calm, helpful entity—however, it’s apparent that their actions are damaging. But can Freda remedy the situation? Gilmore’s short, lyrical text makes these complex ideas more digestible.
All of this is enhanced by Gilmore’s watercolor and gouache illustrations. Through earthy tones, she creates a peaceful village that’s punched up by the sudden appearance of a blue beetle. The illustrations feel light, reminiscent of classic fairy tale collections, yet as the action turns to trouble, Gilmore provides a genuine surprise by suddenly changing the palette until the action settles down. It’s incredibly effective.
Ultimately, Freda and the Blue Beetle showcases a unique, intricate viewpoint in children’s literature and Sophie Gilmore is the perfect voice—and artist—to represent it.
Title: Freda and the Blue Beetle
Author: Sophie Gilmore
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Classification: Picture Book
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.