We are two hours into the First Book-Oahu Book Fair here at Barnes & Noble Kahala and it has been a busy day so far.  We’ve already had Midweek’s “Click Chick” Alison Stewart read for storytime, followed by a wild appearance by Clifford the Big Red Dog which got an excited reception from the keiki present.  At 2pm, Duane “The Dog” Chapman will be in the store to sign copies of his new book—and we expect a big turnout.  Remember, any purchases made in the store in which you say “First Book” will aid First Book Oahu’s efforts to purchase books needed for impoverished children in Hawaii.

For the second tier of my own personal review shamrock, I’ve chosen to read and recommend Gecko & Mosquito (Watermark, 2007) by Melissa DeSica.  Gecko is the sly, boastful antagonist in this book—the self proclaimed king of the hale who uses his status on the food chain to order around the bugs in the house.  Mosquito is the somehow sympathetic protagonist—how the author got me to side with a mosquito is beyond me—who with her cunning and elusiveness is the one crown in Gecko’s kingdom that has eluded the wrath of his hunger.  Through wit and courage, Mosquito finally takes a brave stand against the house bully with enjoyable results.

Melissa DeSica has worked on books before as an illustrator—she did the drawings for the Watermark classic Wordsworth Dances the Waltz, which we reviewed on our last Rec-Fest in August 2009.  Gecko & Mosquito finds her working this time as both author and illustrator with a fun and whimsical product.  For the record, I loathe mosquitoes, so when I began reading this book I initially wanted to see the gecko as a cute, misunderstood creature who assists us humans by getting rid of pesky, bloodthirsty bugs like Mosquito.  However, as the story progressed, the tale of the lonely underdog who just wants to make friends won out over my own personal biases.  What catches me about the book is the writing—done in rhymed verse, it is both endearingly witty and lyrically flowing, making great use of Hawaiian language throughout.  One couplet that caught my eyes was:

But Gecko still wanted Mosquito for kaukau,
His eyes big as lychees, his breath so pilau!

Fun sentences like these are spread generously throughout making the book a pleasant read for both children and adults.  I could see having fun reading this out loud, with big emphasis on the Hawaiian words and phrases like “‘opu of Mo’o!” which rhymes with Mosquito, by the way.  These are complemented by classic DeSica illustrations which bring to life the already lively text.  Many of these are funny in their own, such as a great drawing of Gecko posing as a “Sugar Hill” enticing ants to enter the wooded entrance, or of the creation of a “Mosqui-Two” which I won’t spoil for you.  With good use of a few Hawaiian words, and a focus on our Island wildlife such as geckos, mosquitos and cock-a-roaches, Gecko and Mosquito provides a witty and humorous look at Hawaii through the viewpoint of its least desirable citizens.

Gecko and Mosquito
By Melissa DeSica
Watermark Publishing, 2007
32 pages
For ages: 9-12