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4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  277 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Striking, surreal illustrations and a haunting, evocative text tell a mysterious tale of a threatened natural world —- and a hopeful new start.

Once, the only sounds to be heard were the buzzing of bees in the grass, the murmuring of moles in the earth, and the song of birds in the sky. These warmed the hearts of those who cared to listen —- until the others came to fill th
Paperback, 32 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Candlewick Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 597)
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I picked this one up in 2008 and have been meaning to read it again for a while now. It's an amazing picture book, very mature in subject matter, a book that you'll need to revisit again and again and ponder endlessly. It's also the type of book I would have absolutely loved as a small child (I love it now, too, of course) - at five, six years of age, The Dark Crystal was my favourite movie and it was a dark, menacing tale with sinister creatures, death, violence and adventure. So don't rush to ...more
Arielle Walker
Absolutely heart-wrenchingly stunning. Every pages is an absolute delight. I only wish that the words had been hand-written - the fact that this is even noticable is only because of how perfect every other little detail is.


The story is as old as industrialisation but I'm sure it has never been told so succinctly and beautifully as here.
This beautifully illustrated book by Marc Craste made the text by Helen Ward seem more more meaningful. The words were few, yet intense and in my opinion, easy enough for young children to comprehend. The text on some of the illustrations were hardly noticed - you had to look with a keen eye, which I think made them more meaningful and connected to the dark scenes in this story. The idea that life is becoming over run with buildings, noises, and all kinds of extra "STUFF" is a concern of mine. T ...more
Feb 18, 2013 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Varmints, written by Helen Ward and illustrated by Marc Craste, is a simple yet powerful picture book for older readers (Grades 4 and up). This story is told in three sections that include three diverse worlds, where each is indicated by a vellum page that reminded me a bit of the start of old film footage. The story begins in a beautiful sun-filled meadow full of the sound of buzzing bees. There are "varmints" working in the field, which look a bit like rabbits. Suddenly, there is a transformat ...more
Karen Mace
Feb 05, 2016 Karen Mace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunningly beautiful book, in both words and images. A very simple but poignant storyline about the destruction of the world we live in. Brilliant for all ages!
Ostelin Randa
Mar 08, 2016 Ostelin Randa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Didn't actually re-read it but I remember it because it was such a significant part of my childhood.
Oct 21, 2010 Jocelin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so dark and beautiful. I bought it from my kids school book fair, neither of them (7 and 5) were very interested in it even after I purchased it and read it to them at home, I guess I prefer for them to love cheerful, colorful books with unicorns and rainbows. Maybe someday when life's harsher realities set in they'll appreciate the message in this lovely little book. I loved it though, I got chills the first time I got to the page that said "so they stopped thinking". I love the ar ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Jostalady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone once
Shelves: children-s, recommend
I was blown away to find a children's picture book with dark striking art like a graphic novel, and a message as much me as anything I could ever write. It immediately became my favorite picture book, and I ran out on my lunch break to buy a copy for my best friend. This book is as much him as it is me, and for our perspective to be found in such a tidy package is well worth sharing. I couldn't actually interest any children in this book, but most of the adults I shared it with, thanked me for s ...more
Alexandra Hammerton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 26, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
I haven't even had a chacne to read this yet but the art for this is so beguilingly gorgeous that i can't help but give it 5 stars already.

i dare you to try and find a children's book with art anywhere close to this. a very unique style that is just mind bogglingly awesome.
Jack Kirby and the X-man
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2011 Cami rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
High points for art technique and all, but I don't like to be preached to by books.
Jake Rideout
Jul 13, 2009 Jake Rideout rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a new children's book that will be coming out soonish. It's completely awesome. The story is almost a post-apocalyptic tale about how "Others" invaded the natural world and the original inhabitants could no longer hear the sound of the bees beneath the tall buildings and the noise. One little guy keeps a tree in his skyscraper apartment and takes it to a little grate where sunshine comes through. Here's an excerpt: "Far below, the crowded streets and the empty heads of the Others fell qu ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Stefanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was beautiful. The artwork and text match each other perfectly. I will admit I watched the short film before reading this, but after watching the film I knew I had to read the book. Both are excellent at portraying emotions and getting you to think and feel.
Ashlyn Butcher
Jun 18, 2014 Ashlyn Butcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love, love, love this book! There is so much you can look at, explore, analyze and discuss with this book. The illustrations are beautiful. The layout is intriguing. The themes are timeless and thought provoking. I definitely recommend!
Kristina Jean Lareau
Feb 13, 2016 Kristina Jean Lareau rated it really liked it
Shelves: picturebooks, animals
This beautifully illustrated and somber picturebook has strong similarities to both John Marsden's The Rabbits with a little bit of The Curious Garden for theme and the stylistic detail of Shaun Tan.

Beautiful, sad, hopeful and detailed.
Jan 27, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Stunning! The words and the illustrations. This is a beautiful book reminding us how we have changed the world for the worse, and the importance of keeping some wild space to protect the balance and order of life.
Romi (likes books)
This is just about the most beautiful, Romi perfect picture book I have ever read. It told an incredibly, poignant story in few words and beautiful detail, and I was moved and entranced and filled with wonderment. It was just SO, so incredibly lovely and moving.
This is like a creation of my own mind, that I look at on the page and nod because it’s all there, it’s the kind of thing exactly that I would imagine and it always feels wonderful and remarkable to find a book that feels just like *you*.
May 17, 2012 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
The depiction of living in a polluted, decaying city was, as usual, sentimental and predictable. But there was that distinct streak of ambivalence and sophistication in its treatment of the nature/technology binary. It suggests, or so it seems to me, that the only way to preserve nature is to technologize it. Nature is no longer nature. If we are to expose future generations to what we perceive is natural, then nature has to be taken out of the environment, tended and sustained using artificial ...more
Lisa Dee
Feb 16, 2015 Lisa Dee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hauntingly enchanting illustrations of a familiar theme with a gentle twist.
Con Robinson
Mar 26, 2014 Con Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning book! Beautiful illustrations. Very inspiring
Mar 26, 2014 Evita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this at Bart's books for six dollars and bought it for my daughter. I fell in love with the peculiar illustrations and the story is cute.
Steve Bryans
May 27, 2012 Steve Bryans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 20, 2008 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has relatively few words, and the story is told in large part through full page or two page spread illustrations (which are really beautiful). The book had a good environmental message and makes no apologies for it (not that any are necessary). My only criticism is that the text is hard to read on a few of the darker pages, because the font kind of blends in with the illustrations. Otherwise, it's a short, quick read that should be enjoyed by readers of any age.
Jul 17, 2011 Krissy rated it it was amazing
So I bought this thinking it would be a good read for the evil overlord in training. It's a quick read, but it's so thought provoking.

the art work is amazing. it's sparse, and detailed all at the same time.

I think this would be a wonderful book for older children and up. Not so much for my two year old, but I'll definitely be holding on to until he's old enough to discuss what's going on in the book, and how it relates to the world around us.
The art in this book is wonderful; however, the text is often written in dark letters on dark pages, which makes it difficult to find, let alone read. I had to search some of the pages to make sure there was writing on them. And then I found the story depressing. I don't know that I would find this story suitable for the targeted age group. I almost feel it would be better for young adults and adults rather than children age 4-8.
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This darkly beautiful book tells the story of one creature's rebellion against a dull and mechanized world. In a world where thoughtless beings have destroyed all traces of wilderness, the varmint hero, along with a few others, struggles to find a place for nature. Marc Craste's illustrations are both dark and luminous. This book is a modern-day environmental fable all ages can learn from and enjoy.
Recommended by Adam P.,
Jun 07, 2011 Janece rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a wonderful book. A wonderful and spacious story with incredible artwork. There is a movie short of the book that I'm eager to see. This was a library check-out... but I will be buying it for our permanent collection. I want it to be around - it is so rich with imagination, consciousness and wonder.
Apr 07, 2011 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s, favorites
A very beautiful book that is reminiscent of The Little House, that caldecott winner from so many years ago.
The little varmint in this book has saved a little plant, a little bit of green in a very gray and brown world. A simple reminder that we should keep some of earth's natural beauty in tact.
Liza Gilbert
Jul 31, 2009 Liza Gilbert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
An absolutely stunning and effective picture book about the disappearance of bees and one creature's attempt to bring them back. The art is perfect and the words are sparse and poetic. I don't see the picture book crowd going for it, though, since its message is implied and somewhat abstract.
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Helen Ward won the first Walker Prize for Children’s Illustration and twice won the British National Art Library Award. She has also been short-listed for the 2003 Kate Greenaway Medal. She lives in Gloucestershire, England.
More about Helen Ward...

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