Book Review: In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus is a children's book about young Henri Bell in 1890. He is sent to America alone to stay with his eccentric great-aunt as his mother goes off in search of his missing father. A chance conversation with a fly, begins Henri to discover that he can talk to six legged insects and begins his own epic journey to escape his aunt's even more eccentric neighbor. Time with a circus has Henri making friends of human and insect varieties and ultimately setting off into British Malaya to find his father, and the mystical insect known at Goliathus hercules. To make things even more challenging, Henri starts to notice changes that go far beyond what a normal boy might notice, like the fact that he seems to be shrinking and turning slightly green. Henri and his friend face danger from several sources as they seek answers, and survival.

In Search of Goliathus Hercules is a book that defied my expectations. It took the typical 'child going on a quest' and discovering an unique ability idea and wrapped it up with Metamorphosis and several other ideas. I liked that I never knew when the sneaky, creep neighbor would pop up again,what insight the insects of the world might offer, or the twist the plot in general might take next.  Sometimes it felt like it went a little too far in trying to be so much all at once, but for the most part the story came together and kept me engaged.The character development of Henri and his friends (both two and six legged) was done well, leaving me caring about their welfare. As an extra layer to the story, notice the distinctive illustrations by the author, who is  known for her Victorian-inspired exhibits of insect specimens.

I would recommend In Search of Goliathus Hercules to readers around nine through middle school. The story has adventure and also has a solid coming of age component and a science fiction or fantasy feel as Henri morphs form.  With this in mind, readers that find all things creepy and crawly give them the shivers might want to skip out, since the majority of the story and all of the artwork features insects. Although, insects are humanized, and just might offer the squeamish a feeling of remorse for squished critters from past days, and in the future.
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