A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 2017 Caldecott Honor book Du Iz Tak? is an inventive, exquisitely illustrated picture book by Carson Ellis, well-known for her work illustrating kids' novels (The Wildwood Chronicles). She also has indie rock cred as "the illustrator-in-residence for the Decemberists." (Frontman and author Colin Meloy is her husband.) The story depicts the cycle of growth and death, modeling and encouraging close observation of nature. As the bugs marvel at a growing plant, they speak in an invented language ("Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!"), and kids can puzzle out their conversations from context, making this a joyously entrancing and delightfully "scrivadelly" book indeed.
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What's the story?
In DU IZ TAK? two bugs come upon a small sprout poking out of their little patch of ground and wonder about it ("Du iz tak?"). As the sprout unfurls and grows, so does the conversation. The bugs knock on the door of a log house to consult another bug friend, who brings a ladder so they can climb up and investigate. They build a fort, complete with pirate flag, but when a spider builds a web over it all, the angry bugs shake their fists at him ("BOOBY VOOBECK!"). Just then, a bird swoops down to eat the spider. The bugs again enjoy their fort, especially when a beautiful flower blooms atop it ("Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!"). Alas, the flower wilts, but right nearby, a beautifully patterned moth emerges from a cocoon. Winter comes, then spring -- bringing more sprouts! "Du iz tak?" asks a new bug passing by. And so the cycle continues.
Is it any good?
This delightfully inventive book featuring industrious insects and a playfully made-up language calls for kids to reread and pore over the art so they can puzzle out what the bugs are saying. Du Iz Tak? works on so many levels. The bugs marvel over a growing plant, encouraging readers, too, to closely observe nature. The story adheres to the natural order -- growth and death, seasons, food chain -- while adding plenty of fanciful detail. The bugs build a tree house in the leaves, and a cricket plays a violin, sending music into the night. And though the growth of a plant may be slow going, author-illustrator Ellis imagines plenty of action, including squabbles over the tree house and a marauding bird.
The Jabberwocky-like made-up language is pure silly fun. Since kids are still in language-learning mode, very actively decoding their primary languages, they'll jump to this fresh language-learning challenge. This highly original book's a definite keeper.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the made-up language in Du Iz Tak? Can you figure out what the bugs are saying? How? If you read the story again, do you find more clues?
What happens in the last pages? What do you think will happen after that? Do you think the story will start all over again or something different will happen?
How long do you think it took the plant to grow and sprout the flower? How long do you think it took the cocoon to open? How can you tell the seasons changed?
- Author: Carson Ellis
- Illustrator: Carson Ellis
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Bugs, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: October 18, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 48
- Available on: Hardback
- Award: Caldecott Medal and Honors
- Last updated: June 2, 2020
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