I didn’t know what this book was about when we started to read it. All I knew is that I’ve been trying to convince my son to read one of Kenneth Oppel‘s books with me for several years now, and he finally agreed to this one, his latest. Maybe because of the cool cover with the wasps? Or maybe because I didn’t give him much choice (I was excited to find it still available at the library).
It was creepy. Good creepy. But also sad creepy. The boy in the story has a new brother and there’s something wrong with him. His parents are always worried, and life isn’t the same as it used to be. But, in addition to that, Steven is dreaming about wasps and the Queen wasp is talking to him. She says she’s going to help him make his baby brother well, but she will need his help. Should he agree? Is this real, or is he dreaming? If it’s just a dream, then what’s the harm in agreeing?
There’s also a ‘knife man’ who comes around to sharpen knives, and knocks on the door incessantly when Steven is home alone. And ‘Mr. Nobody’, who calls his sister on her toy phone. The worst part is Steven doesn’t feel like he can tell his parents and get it all off his chest, because they will definitely just send him back to Dr. Brown, or worse. So, he has to handle this all himself.
Sometimes we really aren’t supposed to be the way we are. It’s not good for us. And people don’t like it. You’ve got to change. You’ve got to try harder and do deep breathing and maybe one day take pills and learn tricks so you can pretend to be more like other people. Normal people. But maybe Vanessa was right, and all those other people were broken too in their own ways. Maybe we all spent too much time pretending we weren’t.
Through his horrifying experience with the wasps, Steven comes to realize that it’s okay to be different. Nobody is perfect. And, what is normal anyway? He comes to accept and love his new baby brother (and himself) just the way he is.
But I knew, absolutely I knew, that this perfect baby didn’t care about our little Theo. It didn’t care about me or anyone else. It couldn’t, because it was so perfect that it wouldn’t even understand what it was like not to be perfect. It could never know weakness or fear.
If your child is already afraid of wasps/hornets/bees, they might not want to read this book. We had no idea what we were reading, but luckily, my son isn’t afraid of them. At least, he never used to be. Still, there were a few times he pulled the covers up over his head. And many more times when he didn’t want me to stop reading. I’m wondering what his reaction will be to wasps this summer? Maybe as long as we don’t end up with a big nest of them attached to our house, we’ll be okay. Because you never know what might be growing in there…
My son liked this book so much, our next one is going to be Boundless. I can’t wait!