In Review: Revenge of the Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard

A fun adventure that will leave readers skittering with joy.

Revenge of the Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard

Published by Chicken House/Scholastic, February 27, 2018. Jacketed hardcover of 304 pages at $16.99. Intended for age 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: A yellow crown bearing the book’s title is surrounded by leaves, yellow ladybugs, various beetles large and small, sunglasses, and two fingers with large black nails. At the very bottom is the author’s name. All sits atop some red felt. This is a wonderful cover with art by Julie Mclaughlin, designed by Baily Crawford. The colors are bright, the font fun and the number of creatures moving about makes it seem that they could crawl off the cover at any second. This is an incredible cover. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the back cover, “Cruel beetle fashionista Lucretia Cutter is at large with her deadly yellow ladybug spies — and she has a devious plan. When Darkus, Virginia, and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they’re determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus’s dad has forbidden them to investigate any further — and disgusting crooks Humphrey and Pickering are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia’s daughter and Hollywood actress, but the beetle villainess is always one scuttle ahead…” I didn’t read the first book, Beetle Boy, but there’s enough in this premise for me to get gist of what this book is about. I’m intrigued by a giant beetle woman, let alone one who’s a fashionista. And she’s got dark plans that only three children can stop? Holy Roald Dahl, I’m on board! Overall grade: A

The characters: Darkus Cuttle has got a lot going for him, even if he doesn’t think he does: he knows a lot about beetles, which he got from his father Bartholomew, he has the support of his friends, and he’s got the best pal in the world, Baxter the Rhinoceros Beetle! He’ll do whatever it takes to stop evil Lucretia, but he’s thwarted by his father (whom he saved in the previous book, taking a bullet for him!), who wants to keep his son safe. Bartholomew has also been acting very secretively since being rescued, locking himself away from his son, leading Darkus to have concerns. Friends Virginia and Bertolt are terrific besties who support Darkus in every possible way, even if they have leave to go home for dinner. In fact, one of these friends has a parent join the action later in the book to riotous effect. Baxter is neat creation, who communicates to Darkus not through speech, because that’s impossible, but by using Morse code. Lucretia is wonderful antagonist, a human with bug traits, who is a fashion maven, beginning the book by showing a clueless actress what she’s designed for the nominee to wear at the upcoming Film Awards: a dress made of living beetles! The reader knows that she’s going to do something at the show, but what it is a complete surprise. Her daughter Novak comes across as a Lydia Deetz, depressed at believing Darkus was killed in the previous book. She’s being used by her mother for something, but she doesn’t know what. Thankfully, she learns Darkus is alive and her character becomes more optimistic, though there is a shocking surprise about her past. The comedic villains Humphrey and Pickering don’t really do too much, except interrupt the story to show their ineptitude. The characters are fun, smart, and enjoyable. Overall grade: A-

The settings: The book starts small with its locations, building epically, and ending at the not-The Academy Awards broadcast. The first major setting is the underworld Furniture Forest where all the “good” bugs live and Darkus and his friends care for them. It’s a vibrant location that’s a wonder to read and has something major occur there. Professor Appleyard’s home, though briefly seen, is memorable for its hallway and its kitchen. The story increases its scope at the Greenlandic Arboretum, which is a gigantic dome that protects its flora from the freezing cold. The book ends in Hollywood, with all the trappings one would expect. The wide range of settings increases the excitement and surprises of this book. Overall grade: A

The action: Without spoiling, the tension of what Lucretia has planned with her dresses is extremely foreboding, the major scene in Furniture Forest, and the exciting climax at the Film Awards provide plenty of action and scares for all readers. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: A satisfying ending, though the antagonist is still on the loose. The heroes have a clue and are considering how they’re going to pursue her. Even with the threat unresolved, the danger that Lucretia posed for the Film Awards is stopped. Overall grade: A

An Entomologist’s Dictionary: This is a six page section following the story allowing the reader to look up what some of the words mean, as author Leonard uses the correct terms for certain aspects of the insects. This is a valuable resource that is enlightening. Overall grade: A

The final line: A fun adventure that will leave readers skittering with joy. An excellent combination of humor, thrills, and all things beetle related. Also contains one of the most delicious villains to grace a book since Dolores Umbridge. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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