Soman, D., & Davis, J. (2009). Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Appetizer: Dressed as a ladybug, Lulu heads to the park with her dog, Bingo and her mom. She looks for a friend and finds Sam, but the two have trouble deciding on a game they both want to play.
I absolutely love the sense of imagination of this picturebook. Normal kids imaging that they are superheroes and that the playground is full of villains they must conquer is very realistic. I also liked that pretending to be superheroes was shown as an empowering role for Lulu to take on and by doing so she was able to resolve conflicts with other kids.
In terms of the illustrations...I liked them fine. The eyes of the human characters had an anime vibe going. Also, with a lot of the settings in the illustrations weren't completely filled in, so character would walk across white spaces that was a little off putting.
A red flag did fly up when Sam becomes Bumblebee Boy and picks up a stick to be his stinger. While it's a very realistic depiction of what a child would do, a teacher may want to pause to remind kids that sticks can be dangerous. The illustrations never show him pointing the stick at anyone and the things he attempts to sting are all inanimate objects, but it a warning flag went up. It was a small, little, itty-bitty flag, but a flag, nonetheless.
Of course, the other issue with the stinger is that it's such an obvious phallic symbol. Obviously the kindergartners won't pick up on that. But still....
"Ladybug Girl is ready to play!" says Lulu.
She has been waiting forever to go to her favorite playground--the one with the twisty slide and bouncy dinosaurs."
"When she sees Mrs. Robbins carrying her groceries, Ladybug Girl swoops over to help. The bag is as heavy as a boulder, but it isn't a problem for Ladybug Girl."
"When they get to the playground, it is full of kids. While Bingo settles into his spot under a bench, Lulu looks around for someone to play with."
"You don't want to do anything I want to do!"
"And you don't want to do what I want!" Sam grumbled.
Lulu's cheeks are getting hot.
She is very frustrated! Why doesn't Sam want to play? She definitely didn't have this problem on the way to the playground, when she was Ladybug Girl!"
To Go with the Meal:
This would be an excellent book to share with young readers to discuss rules for the playground and to encourage kids to include one another in imaginative play and to accommodate the different games that each child wanted to play.
This story also focuses on superheroes in a purely positive way that encourages children to be empowered. Of course, there are still references to battling villains (which are all inanimate objects in the story), but some parents might interpret that as encouragement of violence.
Tasty Rating: !!!!