Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale

Common Sense Media says

Jazzy, inventive take on West African folktale.




Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Violence & scariness

There is a subdued but unexpected death of a baby owl.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this folktale about cause and effect uses lots of sound effects (buzz, hiss).

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Kids say

What's the story?

This is a jazzy inventive rendition of the West African folktale explaining the mosquito's buzz. A boast by a mosquito sends events bumping into each other like dominos until the lion must call the animals together to untangle the truth. Aardema uses juicy words to introduce African animals and the sounds they make--"badamin badamin" went the iguana, "wasawusu" went the python. An irresistible read-aloud.

Is it any good?


This book is a gem, from the artwork that resembles the glories of stained glass, to the cumulative power of the story's progress, to the highly original words Verna Aardema has invented for the animals. It is also a vibrant tale of consequences and personal responsibility, even if it ends on a note of high comedy. The Dillons' illustrations are sumptuous, boldly outlined and full of feeling. Each character is given a distinct personality: The iguana is a curmudgeon, the monkey is a piece of trouble, the mosquito is a menace.

As a read-aloud, the book has particular merit. Just watch as 5-year-olds try to wrap their lips around sounds like "purup" and "nge nge nge." Read with verve, the story pulses with life. Even the most timid of listeners are happy to join in that last KPAO!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about consequences. Do you think the mosquito had any idea what would happen when it lied? How could it have fixed the situation before it went too far?

Book details

Author:Verna Aardema
Illustrators:Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 1, 1975
Number of pages:28
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

This review of Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale was written by

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Teen, 13 years old Written byTripFoot October 31, 2012


Fantabulous! This was an assignment in elementary school that I still remember! I love this book, it is so much fun! Even parents can enjoy! The only sad bit is where a baby owl is accidently killed, but it is not described in detail. This book is recomended, and will capture the imagination of kids.
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