Beetle Queen

posted in: Elisabet Portabella, M. G. Leonard | 2

Cover illustration by Elisabet Portabella
Lucretia Cutter is very beautiful, very elegant and very, very clever. An inventor pushing back the boundaries of science, a designer whose creations fill rooms with jaw-dropping beauty, Ms Cutter demands – and deserves – our admiration.

That she is cold, calculating and full of utterly wicked intent only further serves to seduce readers of Beetle Queen by M. G. Leonard (@MGLnrd) into trying uncover her evil plot – involving beetles, genetic manipulation and haute couture – before it is too late.

The world as we know it is under threat (think back to the grasshoppers in the Banks of Plum Creek to remind yourself of the total devastation tiny critters can cause…) and the only people who could prevent disaster are a trio of young friends, prepared to defy their parents, one of whom may have gone over to the dark side.

This sequel to Beetle Boy, a glorious Roald Dahl/Kafka mash-up, is thrilling and deeply satisfying, with characters – authentic, interesting and bags of fun (even when evil!) – who you yearn to meet in real life driving a plot full of satisfying food for thought about our place in the world and how we treat it.

Dusted all over with an iridescent sparkle of magic that comes from combining cutting-edge science with show-stopping glamour, Beetle Queen combines warmth and charm with the addictive adrenalin of (the threat of) terror and a mystery to solve. Hurrah for the Beetle Boy! BOO HISS (but secretly we love you) for the Beetle Queen! Bring on The Battle of the Beetles and the epic show down that can’t come soon enough in the final part of this intelligent, funny, curiosity-inspiring adventure story surely set to become a classic.


Goodness, there is so much one could do to bring this book out from between the covers and off the pages! We started by dressing me up as Lucretia Cutter…

…and turning the girls’ room into Cutter Couture, Lucretia’s workshop for creating incredible costumes inspired by the beauty of beetles.

If you’d like to use the signs we made, you can download a pdf file here (we printed them on gold paper).

Next we set about desiging our own clothes, embellishing black t-shirts with sequins of all sizes (reminding us of beetle elytra), and beetles cut out from a 2nd hand insect guide found in a charity shop. This part of our playing was inspired by the famous Alexander McQueen butterfly hat, and these clothes made by artist Louise Richardson.

Clothes made, it was time for a snack…

Yes, inspired by the section in Beetle Queen about entomophagy (insect eating) we tried eating bugs…

My kids insisted I post this picture to show you how it went for me…

Books certainly have the power to take you to places and give you experiences you’ve never had before!

Music which you might enjoy alongside this book includes:

  • Beetle Mania by Bunny Clogs (at 6.25 here)
  • Ballad of a Dung Beetle by David Rovics
  • Bombardier Beetle by Key Wilde and Mr Clarke
  • Beetle Bug Bop by The Collins Kids
  • Crazy Blue Beetle by Caspar Babypants
  • Carrion Beetle by David Williams

  • Other activities which would go well with the book include:

  • Making pooters to collect bugs to observer. Here’s a clearly illustrated tutorial on how to do just that.
  • Turning a book into a hidden storage box. In Beetle Queen they use an atlas for this, but here’s how we did it with a vintage hardback.
  • Using sequins, styrofoam shapes and pipecleaners to create shiny 3-D beetles. Imagine these Christmas decorations you can make, but start with half a sphere for the beetle body and off you go…
  • Creating beetle wings to wear, inspired by these homemade costume wings.

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its publisher, Chicken House.

    2 Responses

    1. ReadItDaddy

      Once again, a fab review and article based around a book that has been impressing our socks off too! We won’t be eating the bugs though but there’s definitely something about Lucretia Cutter that just keeps us coming back for more. We love our baddies like her, not your usual two dimensional pantomime baddie, but a proper full-on Cruella DeVille type nasty who is absolutely unshakeable in their belief that they’re somehow doing the right thing, even though they’re quite obviously as mad as a hatstand.

      Loved this, great read!
      ReadItDaddy recently posted..Letting ’em fly – Those days when you feel gutsy enough to put your writing out there – A ReadItTorial

      • Zoe

        Thank you ReadItDaddy. Cruelle DeVille was also in our minds when we read this book – you’re so right. Can’t wait for the final instalment of this series.
        Zoe recently posted..Beetle Queen

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