I’m a Pill Bug
by Yukihisa Tokuda; illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahashi
Reviewed by Deb Clark
Pill bugs. Roly-polies. Sow bugs. Doodle bugs. Whatever you call them, kids love them.
My oldest daughter, who runs hysterically screaming from spiders, beetles and dust bunnies alike, gleefully picks up every pill bug she sees. Every spring at her preschool, countless roly-polies meet premature death on the playground as kids snatch up every hapless, segmented creature emerging too visibly from cold-weather slumber. It’s genocide by over-enthusiasm.
This seemingly innate childish fascination makes I’m a Pill Bug immediately attractive to its intended audience. The truly interesting information, illustrated with simple yet precise cut-paper collages, makes it appealing throughout—and beyond: my daughter demanded an immediate reread.
The book, translated from the original Japanese (where pill bugs are called dango-mushi, if you’d like to know), presents an extremely thorough overview of pill bug behavior in basic language and engaging images effortlessly understood by preschoolers. We learn what they eat, why they live near people, how they protect themselves when threatened, why they shed and eat their shells and how they reproduce. That last nugget of information led to a briefly uncomfortable moment in our house.
“Mom,” said my daughter, noting one of the graphics, “why do some roly-polies like to crawl on top of other roly-polies?”
“Oh,” I reply, perhaps a little too quickly. “They just like to play, honey.”
Yeah, yeah, I copped out. But she’s four. I'm not prepared to be the Mom whose daughter explains procreation to every other kid in her class.
By far the biggest source of delight for my daughter was the poop. As this book illustrates over and over and over, pill bugs poop. A lot. An awful lot. It was actually kind of horrifying for me, as I initially perused this book over dinner, to see all the images of prodigious pill bug poop. Why one of their monikers isn’t poop bug I can't explain. All I know is I’m never holding one in my bare hand again.