"The Grouchy Ladybug" by Eric Carle is an elementary school teacher's dream. Teachers can develop many interesting based on the book for telling time, sequencing, animals and their defenses, and of course, the moral lessons of kindness and sharing. Although the book is square, the pages progress in size to enhance the progression of the size of the animals encountered by the ladybug. Illustrations are finger paint and tissue paper collages, and strategically placed die cuts add an element of surprise and strong visual impact. The story begins when two ladybugs have their eyes on the same aphids for a meal.
"The Grouchy Ladybug" takes place around a large-leafed plant with many aphids. As fireflies buzz around the moon, the grouchy ladybug encounters a friendly, kind and polite ladybug who also wants to make a meal of the aphids for breakfast. The friendly ladybug is willing to share, but the grouchy ladybug decides to fight. It then decides that the kind ladybug is too small to bother with and sets off to find a worthy, and larger, opponent.
The action rises as the grouchy ladybug runs into one animal after another from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The grouchy ladybug examines the opponent and its defenses and decides whether or not the animal is large enough to be worth fighting. Starting with a yellow jacket, the ladybug says, "Hey, you. Want to fight?" to all the animals it encounters. As soon as the animal accepts the challenge and shows defenses like a stinger, claw or horn, the ladybug says, "Oh, you're not big enough" and flies off.
After meeting larger and larger animals including a sparrow, a hyena and an elephant, the grouchy ladybug meets up with a whale. At first the whale does not answer when the ladybug asks for a fight. But when the ladybug persists, the whale uses its tail to give the ladybug a slap that sends the grouchy ladybug flying. The whale's tale pops up out of the center of the two-page spread for effect.
The grouchy ladybug goes flying around the world and lands right back where it started. The friendly ladybug is still there at the leaf, having eaten breakfast. It invites the grouchy ladybug to eat the remaining aphids. The grouchy ladybug, tired and hungry from the ordeal, thankfully eats the aphids and sits side by side with the friendly ladybug. The fireflies begin their nightly dance around the moon as the sun goes down.
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