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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

(MMGM) The Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler {review and interview}

Welcome to Day 11 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating Jay Hosler's Last of the Sandwalkers...

Last of the Sandwalkers
by Jay Hosler
First Second
Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization--a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. But not too much scientific research is allowed by the powerful elders, who guard a terrible secret about the world outside the shadow of the palm tree. Lucy is not one to quietly cooperate, however. This tiny field scientist defies the law of her safe but authoritarian home and leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Praise for Last of the Sandwalkers

"Entomologist Hosler offers an epic adventure that delivers an astonishing amount of information in its interstices . . . the clarity of its theme and appeal of its characters carry the day." - Kirkus Reviews

"A tale of a new age of exploration (a story of discovery, betrayal, and revelation. Did I mention it's about bugs? Another excellent story from Jay Hosler." – Stan Sakai, author of Usagi Yojimbo)

"Last of the Sandwalkers masterfully combines storytelling with science." - Boing Boing

At the edge of a desert, lies an oasis paradise. The civilization that inhabits this paradise is a complex, smart one full of scientists, writers, and every other kind of citizen you can imagine...except, they’re all beetles! Lucy, a clever scientist beetle, and her trusty companions, set out to explore beyond the desert and search for other life. But nasty Professor Owen ruins Lucy’s plans and sets her and group on a surprising voyage full of discoveries.

Part graphic novel, part adventure story, Jay Hosler’s Last of the Sandwalkers is an exciting, entertaining, and enlightening book! Hosler effortlessly combines fun storytelling, scientific fact, and engaging illustrations to create a story that is both captivating to read and visually enjoyable to look at it. With Coleopolis (the oasis paradise), the harsh desert at its border, and the fascinating world Lucy and her companions find, Hosler offers up lushly built settings, rich in colors; smells; sights; and sounds, that young readers will be eager to explore. While the adventure story Hosler spins is full of thrills, chills, and fast-paced action.

And of course, this world and story are told from a bug’s perspective, creating both a unique and compelling narration. As a biologist and college professor, this buggy world is one Hosler clearly knows much about, and he cleverly brings that expertise to Last of the Sandwalkers, organically sprinkling science facts and knowledge throughout the story. Young readers will learn a great deal, but in a completely fun and natural way. And while Lucy, her companions, and the many creatures they meet along the way, look and act like their very real counterparts in nature, they are first and foremost engaging, likable characters full of charisma, charm, spirit, and endearing personalities.

Hosler’s black and white illustrations are eye-catching, amusing, and awesomely bring the story to life.

my final thoughts: I’m definitely not a bug person, but Jay Hosler makes bugs fascinating, likable, and fun. With its graphic novel format, exciting story, and cool characters, young readers will go wild for Last of the Sandwalkers!

4/5 yummy cupcakes

What three words best describe your graphic novel, Last of the Sandwalkers?

Beetles! Adventure! Beetles!

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this graphic novel a try?

There’s a whole world of weirdness skittering underfoot in the grass and this books gives you a glimpse of it.

Grab a copy of  Last of the Sandwalkers and answer the following:
favorite page? Page 148 because it looks cool and Lucy says “phooey.”
favorite illustration? Page 97. Lucy gets time to write nestled amongst the plants of the undergrowth.
favorite place/setting? By the stream.
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: In a small clearing, a red ant and a black ant battle to the death. Behind a twig, our heroes watch and worry that they will soon face the same fate.

What inspired Last of the Sandwalkers? Why did you choose to tell this story in the form of a graphic novel?

By one estimate, there are 387,100 species of beetles in the world. That is more than all of the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, corals, mollusks, spider, scorpions and crustaceans species combined. (Whew. I got tired just writing that list.) We live on the Planet of the Beetles, but most people don’t even notice them. Because they’re so diverse, they have adapted a stunning array of abilities. There are species that can pull water from the desert air, others that can glow and send signals to each other in the dark and still others that can spray burning, caustic chemicals. Some fly, some swim, some burrow and some sprint. There are beetles the size of a grain of rice that can work together to kill a tree and there still others that live on the backs of rats and eat parasites living in the fur. Each species is like a little alien scurrying underfoot and I find that incredibly exciting.

Last of the Sandwalkers is my way giving readers a peak at an amazing world. And what better way to get a peak than in a book with lots of pictures. We humans are incredibly visual creatures and a graphic novel allows me to convey tons of information with pictures that might be difficult with traditional prose. Instead of describing a beetle’s appearance in excruciating detail, I can just draw the beetle. Plus, images in comics allow me to create exciting cinematic moments that convey awe and wonder better than I could with words. In the end, the thing that excited me about nature and insects when I was young was actually seeing them do their thing. I believe graphic novels can do that like no other medium.

Can you tell us a bit about your heroine, Lucy? What makes her special and sets her apart from other middle grade heroines?

Well, I think the main things that sets Lucy apart from other middle grade heroines are her six legs and ability to use her abdomen to draw water from the parched desert air. In addition to that, Lucy is clever, curious and inventive. She’s also pretty young. What’s it like to be smarter than those around you but not more mature? Her mouth can get her into trouble and she can be overly confident. She demands evidence and isn’t afraid to disagree with her seniors, especially when she thinks they are being ridiculous. But, when the evidence says she’s wrong, she admits it. It’s hard for her to say she is sorry, but she will. In the end, she just wants to understand the world better. She’s thrilled by the wonders of the natural world and is fearless when she gets the opportunity to explore it.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, you combine fiction and adventure with real science...what do you hope young readers will learn or walk away with after reading this novel?

The most important job I have as a professor and writer is to inspire the curiosity of my students and readers. There’s only so much information I can squeeze into a class lecture or book chapter. In the end, I want my students and readers to get so excited that they go out and explore on their own or read more than they need to for the test. To do that, I try to give people a glimpse of all of the insane mystery and wonder swirling invisibly around us. So often we treat natural history and science like they’re only contained in textbooks. In reality, our lives and our stories are intertwined with the lives and stories of every other creature on the planet. When we understand them better, we understand ourselves better. My hope is that the story in Last of the Sandwalkers provides a window onto an alien world while simultaneously providing a mirror for readers to see that they share a lotin common with some very cool insects.   

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

The middle grades offer an exciting hybrid zone between elementary school and high school. Elementary school kids are bundles of enthusiasm, but they usually don’t have a deep knowledge of the natural world. High school students often have a much stronger grasp of the natural world, but their enthusiasm (or willingness to show it) isn’t what it was when they were in fourth grade. Middle-graders sit at a point in their lives when they are still enthusiastic and have learned enough to start making exciting connections. This is the Age of Inspiration. This is the time when it is critical to fire a student’s desire to read, explore and think. This is when we can pull back the curtain on the mysteries of nature and they’ll understand enough to be inspired.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads and characters?

Well, let me start with books. I love Roald Dahl and Matilda is my favorite of his characters (although George from George’s Marvelous Medicine is a close second). I read aloud to my sons almost every night and we loved the The ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer. I also really enjoyed Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson, The Tale of Desperaux by Kate Dicamillo and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

And then there are graphic novels. I am a big fan of Beanworld by Larry Marder, Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai, American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Davis, Set to Sea by Drew Weing, Castle Waiting by Linda Medley and Bone by Jeff Smith.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at talking. I can jibber jabber all day long.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I LOVE Godzilla movies .

The last great book I read was Stardust by Neil Gaiman although I am almost done with The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert and its pretty great.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Last of the Sandwalkers, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

Many beetles are reddish-brown so I would bake a red velvet cupcake and frost it with orange frosting. It would be the kind of frosting that hardens and is a little crunchy like a beetle exoskeleton. Then I would fill each one (because I couldn’t make just one cupcake) with something different: whipped cream, pudding, gummy bears, chocolate, red peppers, etc because beetles may look plain on the outside but they’re full of surprises. I would call them “yummy.”

Dr. Jay Hosler is an Associate Professor of Biology at Juniata College and an award-winning cartoonist who writes and draws comic books about biology and natural history. His work has been called "ingenious" (The London Times), "goofily inventive" (The New York Times), and "entertaining and slyly educational" (The Comics Journal). His works include Active Synapse classics such as Clan Apis, The Sandwalk Adventures, and Optical Allusions. You can visit Jay's website for a more in-depth introduction to this multi-talented cartoonist-biologist-professor-daddy.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Bugs and illustrations, sounds like something my kiddo might like, thanks for review/interview.