Leo the Lightning Bug

   As the first book to be dubbed a Blueberry Book in our household, Leo the Lightning Bug by Eric Drachman, is a tender story about a lightning bug who can't glow no matter how hard he tries.  I was drawn to the book because of the picture on the cover of Leo longingly gazing out a window.  I immediately felt a sense of wonder, hope, and anticipation.

The Story

   Lightning bugs are are such whimsical little creatures.  But without their sparkling light, they're just another bug.  Leo struggles to find his light and his self-confidence while being heckled by his peers.  Feeling low and defeated, he remembers his mother's advice to practice, practice, practice.  Leo was determined to glow and after much "squeezing and pushing and squinching," he finally saw the light!  This tale provides a great lesson in persevering to overcome fears and insecurities and how to laugh off teasing friends. 


The Storytellers

   After learning about the author's background, it makes sense why this book doesn't read as easy as the steady prose of a rhyming picture book.  Eric Drachman was an actor in Los Angeles.  He has a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from The California Institute of the Arts, honed his skills with an esteemed acting coach, and performed in the theater realm of L.A.  You won't find iambic pentameter or poems here.  What you will find, if you really live the words like an actor, is a wonderful script ready to be performed!  My girls love all the facial expressions I make with Leo's every squeeze and push.  They give an empathetic, "Awwwww!" when his friends laugh at him, and they grin with satisfaction when Leo's mommy finds him still glowing in his sleep.
   James Muscarello does a beautiful job illustrating every page with delicate pastels.  Leo's every moment of toil and triumph reads with each line on his darling little face.  The portrait of life through a lightning bug's little eyes reminds me of the visionary tactics in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.  And it leaves me singing one of my best-loved songs, Faith Hill's "Fireflies."

   My favorite drawings are in the moment Leo's tail ultimately and miraculously lights up in the midst of an illuminating lightning storm!  Muscarello perfectly captured the exact scene that prompted the book.  Drachman states, "I was inspired to write 'Leo the Lightning Bug' one summer while watching a tremendous thunder storm from a screened in porch in the woods. The lightning was striking all around the cottage when I saw a little lightning bug fly by the screen lighting up his own light! I thought to myself, 'I wonder if he thinks he's doing all of this?!?' ...and Leo was born."

The Review

   Leo the Lightning Bug has earned the following awards:
  • No. 2 on Los Angeles Times Children’s Bestsellers List
  • Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Children’s Book and Audio Book
  • Book Sense 76 Children’s Pick
  • Honorable Mention by ForeWord Magazine for its Book of the Year Award
  • And now a remarkable 5 out of 5 blueberries from my daughters!!

The Classroom

   This is a fantastic bedtime story that grandparents, parents, teachers, and children alike can relate to while they pull the covers up over their heads and imagine together!  If you really want to be interactive, bring a flashlight to flicker and add yet another element of excitement.

   As an added bonus, Drachman created an audio CD full with adorable children's' voices, music, and sound effects and included one in each book.  In fact, recording book audio is how he ended up a children's author.  Drachman shared his story in a Q&A (link here), "I needed a holiday present for my niece and nephew.  First I created some very rough books-on-tape based on already published books.  These were just personal presents, but the kids loved them and over a few years, those projects evolved into fully edited books-on-CD complete with sound effects, audible page turns and my niece and nephew playing the kids’ roles.  Everyone who heard them, wanted to buy them, but these were not my books, so I decided to write my own… and found that it was something that came naturally." 

   The audio CD is a fantastic idea!  It is helpful on nights when I'm too tired to give my little ones all the extra animation they enjoy.  When they are ready to learn to read, it will be a great tool!  And, there's an app for it too!  Go to Ocean House Media's site to find more of your favorite children's books converted into digital experiences for your Android and Apple devices.  Buy the book HERE! (Ages 3-7)

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