Phillis Gershator







About me



Zzzng jacket

a Yoruba tale

illustrated by Teresa Smith Villegas

Orchard, 1998

New Spanish/English edition from
Babl Books, 2016

*Anne Izard Storyteller's Choice Award, 2000
*Starred review, Kirkus
*Featured title, Bookbag

From the book jacket:
Who will marry Mosquito? She sings a lovely song. Surely Ear will be charmed? And if not Ear, then certainly handsome Arm or graceful Leg?

But in spite of all her efforts, each potential mate rebuffs her, turning her beautiful song into an angry buzz. They may not take her seriously, but Mosquito soon discovers that there are other ways of catching their attention....

Splendid for reading aloud, this classic African tale about why Mosquito added some bite to her buzz is illustrated with strikingly lush and colorful art.

A little about the book:
Editor Richard Jackson held this story, an expanded version of a classic African mosquito tale, for a long time, until he finally said: I still like it, but mosquito’s song is bothering me. “Those verses are not mosquito-like. They’re heavy.... No, what they would rather be is fleet, sharp, short-lined, with a little bite to them. Of course they’re wheedles, but a mosquito must wheedle in a particular way.” My husband, champion mosquito catcher and frequent collaborator, came up with the perfect song. Dick was happy with it––and the book won a prize! With a silver sticker!

From the reviews:
"This is a rhythmic, repetitive, word-perfect retelling of a traditional Yoruba tale. Well-suited to the youngest of audiences and an excellent 'story-stretcher' for audiences of any age, this really ZZZNGS!" Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award, 2000

"Gershator's economical but engaging text has repetitive refrains and opportunities for group participation galore; Smith's pastel and crayon illustrations, with their saturated colors and uncluttered compositions, suit the readaloud, showabout nature of the tale....a stinging good storytime." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"...The words of the insect's songs spiral through the illustrations. Kids will enjoy Mosquito's revenge and her onomatopoetic verses....A strongly executed version of a clever how-and-why tale." School Library Journal

“How did small, weak Mosquito get to be such a big nuisance? This rhythmic retelling of an African folktale will have young readers all abuzz as they learn the answer! The story reveals that Mosquito was once only a harmless irritation who made joyful, singsong pleas for marriage. But after being rudely shooed away by Ear, Arm, and Leg, Mosquito angrily sets out to prove that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye and ear! Bold crayon and pastel illustrations complement this entertaining read-aloud that delivers a valuable message about respect.” Bookbag, featured title, February/March 2001, with lots of classroom activities. One idea was for students to analyze and evaluate the story by completing the following two sentences, explaining their choice of words, and then sharing their impressions by reading the essays aloud:
"Everyone thinks that Mosquito is small and weak, but she is really very___________" because....
"I think Mosquito makes a [bad or good?] choice when she decides to bite, sting, and buzz because...."

“Children will laugh at the silliness of Mosquito wanting to marry Ear, then Arm, then Leg, share her frustration at being rejected, and enjoy her biting, stinging, buzzing revenge as the bright illustrations transport them into the world of traditional fantasy....This is good read-aloud fun....” Booklist

“Smith illustrates this alternative to Verna Aardema’s classic Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (1975) with close-ups of striped Mosquito, bristling with pointed extremities, against backgrounds of saturated blues and greens. A simple, clever story that will not only be new to young readers, but in this lively recasting lends itself equally well to reading alone or out loud.” Kirkus, starred review