Sonderbooks Book Review of

Bug in a Vacuum

by Mélanie Watt

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Bug in a Vacuum

by Mélanie Watt

Review posted October 7, 2015.
Tundra Books, 2015. 96 pages.

This book makes me laugh. The premise is simple: It’s the stages of grief as experienced by a fly caught in a vacuum cleaner.

The note at the back explains, “The five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model, introduced in 1969, are a series of emotions commonly experienced when facing a life-changing event.”

Yes, this would be helpful for explaining the stages of grief to a child. But it’s also just plain fun. Although it’s long, there aren’t a lot of words on each page, and the lavish illustrations do most of the work of telling the story.

The fly, of course, has something to say at every stage:

Denial: “This is amazing! Doesn’t get much cozier than this … Can’t wait to tell my friends about this place!”

Bargaining: “My how the time flies! I must be on my way. Can I be vacuumed next Monday instead? Tonight’s bowling night with the dung beetles.”


Despair: “I’ll never see the sky again. Let’s face it … I have no future!”

Acceptance: “I surrender! I’ll make the best of things …”

Now, the book is made less bleak in that the fly eventually does escape, as the vacuum is hauled to a dump and breaks open. There’s a parallel journey involving a dog and its stuffed toy – and the dog gets distracted while the toy ends up part of a bird’s nest, so we are given an alternate ending.

You might think that a lot of pictures of the inside of a vacuum would get old, but Mélanie Watt knows how to add details to keep you occupied many times through the book.

This isn’t exactly a book for storytimes – but it is a book that could be used as bibliotherapy – but is also an engaging, brilliantly illustrated, and entertaining story totally apart from its teaching value. And since I consider few things worse than a didactic book that is not entertaining, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a big win.