It’s hard being a fourth-grader. It’s even harder being a fourth grader who is an insect ninja superhero, as Tiger Moth finds out in the collection entitled Tiger Moth: Adventures of an Insect Ninja. Collecting four previous titles into one edition, this volume highlights Aaron Reynolds’ original insect hero as he saves his schoolmates from the evils of the Fruit Fly Boys, dung beetle bandits, the dastardly supervillian Weevil, and – almost – school plays.
Narrated in a amusing mock-Sam Spade style, Tiger Moth relates his adventures, aided by his trusty sidekick, Kung Pow the pill bug. They range from the mundane (a picture used in the school play going missing) to the fantastic (Weevil’s evil plan to devour the whole town using a giant bat). Along the way, young readers will be pulled in by the bright colors and swiftly-moving stories. Reynolds’ writing is tongue-in-cheek, filled with cute insect-related pun wordplay that may make adults groan while the kids giggle. Tiger Moth’s dialog shows all the tropes of puffed-up superheroic speech, while Kung Pow brings things back down to earth with his much more realistic take as he tries to live up to being a superhero’s sidekick. A favorite example of Kung Pow’s dialog: “Wow! That actually worked. I mean, is that all you got, Weevil?”
Erik Lervold’s manga-inspired artwork perfectly matches Reynolds’ tone. At times I found myself wishing his line wasn’t so thick – the pages often seem like they were reproduced at actual size rather than being reduced as is the norm – but this is more a prejudice of an all-too jaded reviewer than any real defect. One good thing is that the characters and simple backgrounds aren’t junked up by a lot of ink shading or cross-hatching, making them very readable to the eye and possibly easier for a young reader to assimilate. The use of bright colors by colorist Krista Ward lends the whole title a very animated cartoon feel, perfectly suited to its target audience. I’m not exactly sure why, if all the characters are anthropomorphic bugs, Tiger Moth’s teacher Mrs. Mandible and Weevil are the only ones shown as having extra arms, but the charming design of all the characters is very appealing. They are all cute as a, well, bug.
This collection definitely should be added to all childrens’ shelves, appealing especially to parents of boys who want superhero adventure stories, without all the inherent violence. Also, being a collection of four rather short individual stories, it makes economic sense to purchase this title in lieu of the individual ones, stretching your library’s dollars as far as possible.