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Breakout at the Bug Lab

Breakout at the Bug Lab

by Ruth Horowitz, Joan Holub (Artist)

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Max, a Madagascar cockroach, is as big as a bite-sized candy bar and hisses like a snake when he is mad. Leo and his brother are fascinated. Out of all of the bugs in their mother's bug lab, Max is definitely the best. But now, Max is on the loose in the lab! To make matters worse, there's a party there today. Leo and his brother have to find Max before he makes


Max, a Madagascar cockroach, is as big as a bite-sized candy bar and hisses like a snake when he is mad. Leo and his brother are fascinated. Out of all of the bugs in their mother's bug lab, Max is definitely the best. But now, Max is on the loose in the lab! To make matters worse, there's a party there today. Leo and his brother have to find Max before he makes people scream-or worse.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The brothers in this easy-to-read story are frantic. Their mother works in a lab with bugs and her giant pet cockroach Max has escaped from his tank. Mom has gone off to prepare for a big ribbon cutting ceremony and the naming of the nature center, and they know that the escaped giant bug will probably freak out the guests, especially Ruby L. Gold for whom the center is being named. After a series of really funny escapades and the help of One-Shot Lil, Max is safely captured and put back in his tank. The ceremony goes off without a hitch and the boys have a delightful shared secret. The text is full of puns, amusing pictures and a clever story that kids will truly enjoy. 2001, Dial, $13.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
It's difficult to find an "I Can Read" book with voice, depth of character, uniqueness, and child appeal. Horowitz manages all of these with easy readability. The first-person narrator of her book is an unnamed young boy whose mother works in a bug lab. There she examines robber flies, checks out dung beetles who "eat animal poop," and cares for Max, the pride of the lab. Max, a hissing cockroach from Madagascar, is as big as a "bite-sized candy bar" and the young boy considers him a pet. In a few short pages, Horowitz manages to give readers a sense of a science lab, the affable relationship between a mom and her two sons, the habits of Max and his insect compadres, and a young boy's fascination with a pet that makes people scream. We know much about this young boy through his own words. He is responsible and kind. For instance, though his mother's new haircut makes her "look kind of like a poodle," he never tells her so. He enjoys observing and taking care of bugs; his language is threaded with bug-speak. He's afraid, for example, at Max's escape that his mother will be "as mad as a fire ant." Horowitz's breezy style heralds a fast-moving plot which quickly thickens when Max escapes and Ruby L. Gold, a bug-loving dignitary, arrives to be honored with a special ceremony. Whom should she meet first but the two brothers desperately trying to get Max off the ceiling while they avoid their poodle-haired mother. But Ruby screams with delight, not fear. It turns out she's handy with a rubber-band, was once called One-Shot Lil, and it's her accurate aim that gets Max off the ceiling and back into his cage. There's a witty tone that foretells fun. Horowitz is as fond of bug wordplay as her hero.She also understands how young readers love to laugh at slapstick and slightly disgusting subjects. The narrator's younger brother burps during boring speeches, and there's even a banana peel in one scene though, amazingly, no one slips on it. Word and situational humor are reinforced by Holub's pictures. In one illustration, for example, magnified comic fat white grubs smile at readers from under a microscope. Predictability, the curse of many works of fiction, is almost a must in this genre. Adult readers won't be surprised at Lil's true identity. Younger readers might not be either, but at their age, knowing more than the characters will please them. Horowitz manages to give beginning readers all the supportive conventions they expect with a book that reads aloud so well, it won't bug adults either! 2001, Dial, 48 pages,
— Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-When mom's giant cockroach, Max, escapes from his glass cage just before an important ceremony at the lab where she works, the young narrator and his brother find the bug but just can't catch him. Help comes from a woman with an unusual talent, resulting in a story that's as surprising as it is amusing. The text, written with a clever mix of sight and easy-to-sound-out words, reads less like a beginning reader and more like a real chapter book. There is a plot, a problem, and a solution, with real children who don't always follow the rules, a loving mother, and a great conclusion. Even the illustrations, with their rounded lines in shades of blue and yellow, have a warm, fuzzy, feel-good look to them. A book in which everything is just right.-Leslie S. Hilverding, Schuster Elementary School, El Paso, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The first page of this easy reader sets the tone for a very funny story narrated by an unnamed boy whose entomologist mother works at a complex of scientific research labs, working with insects in the bug lab. "She studies dung beetles. They eat animal poop!" (What second-grader could resist that?) This cool scientist-Mom also has a large pet cockroach named Max (a Madagascan hissing cockroach, as we learn in the author's biographical note) that she keeps in her lab. The narrator and his brother are visiting the science labs to attend a special dedication ceremony when Max, the cockroach, escapes from his glass tank. The two boys manage to trap him with the help of Ruby L. Gold, the benefactor of the science labs, a gray-haired older lady who is most definitely not afraid of bugs (or boisterous little boys, either). The positive images of women are just one commendable aspect of this story, written at the 2.1 reading level, with short sentences, large type, and plenty of white space surrounding the text (which is divided into short chapters). Holub's (Why Do Dogs Bark, p. 110, etc.) watercolor, acrylic, and gouache paintings add to the humor, especially her illustrations of the buggy-eyed Max. Horowitz (Crab Moon, 2000, etc.) injects lots of droll wit and sly puns into the tale, along with interesting bits of information about insects and scientific work. New readers will enjoy this on their own, but the story will also work well as a read-aloud in first- and second-grade classrooms. (Easy reader. 6-9)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Penguin Young Readers Level 3 Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.37(d)
260L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 8 Years

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