by Elise Gravel is a nonfiction children's book that introduces an anthropomorphic fly "family" and describes a fly's daily life. The story is part of The Disgusting Critters Series
. Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House, published the story in 2014. Gravel wrote the book for children six to nine years old or grades one to five.
The story starts with colorful, mismatched lettering that reads, "Let me introduce you to a special guy. Here's the fly." The cartoon fly waves with two of his six legs. He has a long, cylindrical nose, large eyes, a kidney-shaped blue body, and small wings. Fine hairs cover his face and body.
The next page informs the reader that there are over 100,000 species of flies in the world, including the green bottle fly (who huffily asks, "Who you calling green?"), the blue bottle fly (who feels sad sometimes), the Drosophila fruit fly (who's enjoying a swim in some juice), and the housefly. The housefly is the focus of the book because, as the housefly states, he is the king of the trash heap.
The housefly is a part of the Muscidae family. We see the family together; the Mom and Dad Muscidae are pushing the Baby Muscidae in a baby carriage. Baby Muscidae sucks on a pacifier. The slouching Teenager Muscidae has on a ball cap, and his speech bubble says, "Yo." Next to him is a Cousin Muscidae with pigtails who is holding the leash of the Pet Muscidae. Pet Muscidae looks like the other flies but stands on all its legs like a dog and has a collar around his neck.
Through this family, we learn that flies are covered in fine hairs and that they have the ability to walk on the ceiling due to bubbles of liquid on their feet, though one fly notes that it's hard to play soccer on the ceiling. The flies enjoy many delicious foods, like dirty diapers, garbage juice soup, and sour tomato sauce, all of which must be softened by a little vomit. In fact, Mom Muscidae is quick to ask whether Teenage Muscidae has remembered to vomit on his food before eating.
The book also covers the anatomy of a fly and why and how they carry germs. The life cycle of a fly is also discussed, from larvae to pupa to flies to reproduction.The Fly
is the first book in Gravel's Disgusting Critters Series
. Other books in the series include The Worm
, The Toad
, The Slug
, The Spider
, The Fly
, The Rat
, and Head Lice
. Each of the books uses cartoon illustrations and humorous commentary to introduce facts about the "disgusting critter" in question.
In The Worm
, Gravel tells about several types of worms, including the earthworm, saying that worms are simply a digestive tract inside a muscle. The Rat
tells the story of a rat who can squeeze into a hole the size of a quarter and describes her gross diet and bathroom habits. In The Slug
, we learn that slugs help clean up the ecosystem by consuming decaying plant and animal matter, and The Toad
introduces different kinds of toads, such as a toad that pretends to be a stone and a toad whose offspring live on her back. Head Lice
may be as small as a sesame seed, but Lice tells us, "To your parents, I'm scarier than a lion."
Elise Gravel is both the author and illustrator of her books. She has written more than forty books and graphic novels and won the 2012 Governor General's Award for Children's Illustration in French for La clé à molette
In an interview with The Globe and Mail
, Gravel confessed that she always loved bugs and odd animals. She said, "I didn't understand why people found these so gross. I still don't know. I have empathy for creatures that nobody loves or that are strange or weird or different. I want to share that with children, because I feel a lot of children are taught to hate bugs or to hate weird or different creatures, by grown-ups. But they wouldn't if they were left to themselves. Who decided that a worm is gross? Why?"
Gravel began her writing career after she graduated with a degree in graphic design. She started working on a portfolio to present to potential clients and wound up with what she describes as "fake ads for very silly products." She sent the collection to a publisher, thinking it would make an interesting picture book, and the publisher agreed. Le Catalogue des gaspilleurs
, or "catalog for the wasteful," was the result.
She continued writing books for children and eventually translated some of her books into English. As she became increasingly popular in the English-speaking market, she began writing books in English, including The Disgusting Critters Series