Beetle Boy, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Beetle Boy, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fun, engaging mystery about a boy and his helpful beetles.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information about bugs and beetles, lots of advanced vocabulary, including an entomologist's dictionary at the end of the book to explain common terms.

Positive Messages

Kindness, perseverance, and ingenuity are important, and loyal friends can change a person's life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Uncle Max is caring and supportive, and believes Darkus when he talks about about his dad.

Violence & Scariness

Kidnapping, threats, some physical violence including a parent attacking a child.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that M.G. Leonard's Beetle Boy is a smart, fast-paced mystery that delightfully blends a serious kidnapping adventure with the story of an orphaned boy who blossoms after a rare beetle becomes his best friend. In this riveting first book in a trilogy, Darkus' dad disappears, and Darkus never considered that the mountain of beetles living in the run-down building across the street might be the key to finding him -- and he certainly never thought a beetle could communicate with a human. Friendship and loyalty are running themes here, blended with a lot of information about bugs. There's a bit more realistic violence than younger readers might be comfortable with, but the story is an engrossing, often funny mystery, with a great cliffhanger for future books in the series.

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Kid, 11 years old August 5, 2020

Beetle boy review

A young teen searches for his father with the assistance of unusual beetles Five years after the death of his mother, 13-year-old Darkus Cuttle must confront th... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BEETLE BOY, the first book in M.G. Leonard's trilogy, Darkus Cuttle's dad mysteriously disappears from a sealed room in the Natural History Museum, leaving Darkus to move in with his eccentric uncle, Max. His quest to find out what happened to his dad takes a mysterious turn when he discovers a beetle infestation in the house across the street. The beetles have almost human abilities to communicate with him, and one rhinoceros beetle (later named Baxter) refuses to leave his side and becomes Darkus' pet. Darkus is befriended by two other smart misfits at school who help him stand up to bullies, and the loyal trio, with their insect friends, take on the terrifying villain who kidnapped his dad for mysterious reasons.

Is it any good?

Filled with vibrant characters and a quirky, fast-paced plot, the first book in a bug-based series is a fun mystery with equal parts action and emotion. Beetle Boy brings humanity to bugs that often make people squeamish while delivering a story that reaches younger and older readers alike. Author M.G. Leonard doesn't dwell on Darkus' terrible situation too long, rescuing him from his loneliness with friends both human and beetle, and making sure that Darkus has an adult in his life who understands and supports him. The physical descriptions bring both characters and locations to life, and there's a ton of information about beetles, including an entomologist's dictionary at the end of the book to describe common terms.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Baxter a friend to Darkus in Beetle Boy. Baxter isn't human, but what do they do for each other that makes them friends?

  • What can we do if we see a friend react the way Novak did to her mom's behavior? Is is understandable? Should we be worried for her?

  • What other mysteries have non-humans at the center of the plot?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries and great books for boys

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