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Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
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Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  25,351 ratings  ·  1,359 reviews
"In this Caldecott Medal winner, Mosquito tells a story that causes a jungle disaster. "Elegance has become the Dillons' hallmark. . . . Matching the art is Aardema's uniquely onomatopoeic text . . . An impressive showpiece."
-Booklist, starred review.

Winner of Caldecott Medal in 1976 and the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award in 1977.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published August 15th 1992 by Puffin Books (first published 1975)
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The artwork here is fantastic. To me, it is something new from what I have been reading in the Caldecott genre. There are these large colorful patterns inside shapes that make up the jungle and the animals.

This fable is about why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears (like the title says) and it is caused by a chain of events that go on and on until a branch breaks and an owlet dies. The mother owl hoots up the sun and because she is sad, she will not call up the sun and they are in darkness. It als

“Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” is a Caldecott Award winning folktale from Africa about the consequences of lying to other people and how they affect others. Verna Aardema’s playful narrative and Leo and Diane Dillon’s colorful and vibrant illustrations make this book an instant treat for children and adults alike.

Verna Aardema’s magnificent retelling of an ancient West African folktale is both funny and dramatic. The story of how a mosquito’s lie eventually causes chaos in the forest an
May 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually write reviews, but this is one of my favorite books. I use it every year in my class to teach about community. Specifically, how the actions of one member of the community can adversely affect others. The language and the pictures are awesome, too!
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Folklore Lovers / Anyone Who Loves Beautiful Picture-Books
I loved this beautifully-illustrated folktale as a child, and have fond memories of poring over the Dillons' colorful mosaic-like artwork. The story of a chain reaction, in which a mosquito's careless words create a growing crisis, spreading fear and chaos throughout the forest, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears is exactly the kind of progression-tale that makes for an entertaining story-hour.

Winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1975, this wonderful picture book is a classic of children's literat
B. P. Rinehart
Another story from my youth. About a careless lie that leads to death and a near eternal night. For the kids.
Zoe's Human
This has fun art and loads of animals, but the story fell a bit flat with me. All of the animals, excepting the rabbit, seemed to overreact, and I just don't think the mosquito should have born the burden of the punishment for everyone's absurd behavior. The story could be used to mentor about unintended consequences and overreactions by an engaged parent though.

Picture book folktale
Grades: PreK - 5
Ages: 3-10
Lexile Measure: AD770L
DRA Level: 30
Themes: African animals, African folktales, lying, un
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
1976 Caldecott Medal

This folk tale is written in a cumulative or a chain format, similar to other popular children's books such as: Their Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, This is the House that Jack Built, and The Napping House. I think it could open up some great discussion on the effects our behavior can have on those around us, being honest, and taking time to communicate. I only wish the illustrations were done better. They fit the story, but they just didn't feel engaging enough.
Kiera Burnett
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Summary and Critique:
This west African tale uses all of the key features of a modern folktale, including talking animals, personification, and the explanation of naturally occurring events. When a buzzing mosquito sets the animals in a tizzy, it is up to King Lion to sort out the mess using a classic reversal of events. This book would be ideal for teaching cause and effect or allowing students to practice reversal strategies of their own. Additionally, the author uses countless sound words thro
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a fun story, along the lines of "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly..." And our girls said it reminded them of Crazy Alphabet by Lynn Cox.

In any case, it's a story that builds upon itself one creature at a time. It's fun to read aloud and the illutrations are angular and look almost primitive. We really enjoyed reading this book together.

This book was selected as one of the books for the October 2015 - Quarterly Caldecott discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Book
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears is a Caldecott Award winning picture book written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. I selected the book from the ALSC website. In this pourquoi tale, the author retells an African story of how the mosquito developed its habit of buzzing. According to the tale, which is written in a cumulative format, the mosquito spotted the iguana drinking at a waterhole and announced, “I saw a farmer digging yams that were almost as big as I am.” The ...more
Julie C
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting read and such vivid pictures! The story begins with two characters talking, an iguana and a mosquito. The mosquito speaks about how it saw a farmer with yams that were as big as the mosquito, but iguana is annoyed by this lie and stuck sticks into his ears so he wouldn't have to listen to mosquito talk anymore. A snake sees his friend, the iguana, and tries to talk to him. When the iguana ignores the snake (as the iguana has sticks in his ears and cannot hear), the snake imme ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears" is an African Tale that seeks to explain why mosquitos make the sound they do. The tale begins with a mosquito telling an iguana about a farmer digging yams as big as he was. The iguana thought the story was so ridiculous that he refused to listen any longer and placed sticks in his ears. What happened next was a chain of repercussions that led to the death of an owlet and the sun no longer rising.

"So, it was the mosquito who annoyed the iguana, who frighten
Robb Rugeroni
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Aardema, Verna. Pictures by Dillon, Leo and Diane. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (1975).
Some books tell interesting stories, some grab your eye with dazzling illustrations and then there those that are fantastically balanced with both a great story and wonderful artwork like this book. This West African tale in which the animal characters play the telephone game, written with poetic onomatopoeias and colorfully drawn watercolor landscapes, shares its explanation of why mosquitoes buzz in
In this West African folk tale, a mosquito's lie makes the iguana grumpy, setting off a chain of events in the jungle that answers the question of why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears.

This book would be great for elementary age children. The author gives each animal a made up sound to mimic their movement or traditional sound. The illustrations are colorful and contribute to the mood and flow of the story. This book could be used in a folk tale unit or as a funny read aloud on a camping trip. T
Makenzie Moore
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: elm-572-books
This folklore story reminded me a lot of "There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." I'm thinking this is because of the rhythmic nuance and pattern of the story. This book would be great for grades 1-6. Not only could the students catch on to the patterns near the middle-end of the story, but they could predict what is going to happen as the mosquito and the rest of the animals make their decisions. This book is also a great book to teach cause and effect. The animals' actions are the perfect ...more
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: kindergarteners
I got this book when I was a kid, but I didn't care for the illustrations so I don't think I ever read it.

Well, approximately twenty years later I have read it to my five year old child, and I still don't like it. Now, as an adult, I like the pictures. They are not typical cute drawings, but they are interesting. Now I don't care for the story--it's rather boring and involves the death of an owlet and its mourning mother. Worth reading once, but not worth buying. (Luckily our copy is from the li
A great educational book for your children over the preschool age. My 5 yr old loved it. Lots of good information with beautiful pictures that will help keep children engaged. Aardema is wonderful for an addition to a geography or history lesson. And this one is a Caldecott award winner so it's worth the read for the illustrations alone. A great addition to any children's library.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
African myths feel more like folk tales. This one was very entertaining.
Lauren Carew
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema is an example of a folk tale, more specifically this book is a pourquoi folk tale. This book answers questions particularly in nature. In this book the animals were trying to figure out how the baby owlet had died. In a series of questions and confessions from all the different animals, came to find it was the mosquitoes’ fault in the first place. Since this little mosquito caused such a commotion in the town he went away to hide. In the end ...more
Morgan Jones
This book is about a west African tale about a pesky mosquito. The story tells the tale of how form one animal to another each setting off a chain of events leading to many animals being annoyed or killed. It goes from an iguana to a python to a rabbit to a crowed a monkey to an owlet to a mother owl. Eventually the king lion calls a meeting to settle everything out. The illustrations are bright and engaging.

I gave this book 4 stars because it is a good book that tells an old tale. Although I f
Stacy M. Patton
——-Caldecott 1976——

A clever African tale about the origins of why a mosquito buzzed in people’s ears. We enjoyed this one!
Between this and the Anansi book I read right before, I'm hardcore wanting to read nothing but African folktales. This one is so cute, especially the illustrations. I'm especially in love with the salty iguana.
Patrick Hamill
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Breanna Newton
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Why Mosquito’s Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon is a sweet read about an West African tale. This book has been remade into updated versions throughout the years but the original is the best. The illustrations of the book were bright and colorful. The animals in the pictures gave a playful read to the reader as they looked like cutouts or coloring book drawings. The author lays out the text in an easy manner for the reader to understand. The mosquito ...more
Book Concierge
Diane and Leo Dillon were awarded the Caldecott Medal for their woodcut illustrations of this African folk tale.

When the mosquito tells the iguana what he saw, the iguana gets annoyed. Not wanting to listen to such nonsense, he plugs his ears. As a result, he doesn’t hear the python’s greeting, and the snake believes iguana is angry with him and plotting some sort of revenge. So, python looks for a hole to hide in, which frightens the rabbit …. Etc It’s a fun, repetitive story that children wil
Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears is for me a very confusing yet interesting folktale. It all starts when Mosquito was telling Iguana such a big lie that he placed two sticks in his ears not wanting to hear more of it. Iguana passed by a python, still with the two sticks on his ears. The python greeted the Iguana not knowing about the issue and when he saw that the Iguana didn’t respond, he began to find a place to hide. The first place to hide he saw was the rabbit's hole. The rabbit got sca ...more
Courtney Spicer
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Aardema, V. & Dillion, L. & D. (1975). Why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears: A west African tale. New York: Puffin Books.
In this story that takes place in Africa, a mosquito flies over to an iguana to tell him about a yam that was being pulled out by a farmer. The iguana thought the mosquito was telling a huge lie, so he plugged his ears so that he wouldn’t have to hear the lies anymore. Well, his snake friend slithered by and said hello, but Iguana didn’t hear him. Snake assumed Iguana was plot
Diego Marranzini
“Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears” is a folktale. The setting in “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears” is the forest. There are 3 big events in this folktale. They are the following: One of mother Owl’s owlets died. The King gathered a meeting to see who was guilty of this happening and interrogated a lot of animals. Finally they found out that the mosquito was the guilty one. The theme of the story is to tell you the reason why mosquitos buzz in peoples ears. The reason is that the mosquito ...more
Amanda Gary
Aug 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: wow-books
Have you ever spread a rumor or lie or been a part of a the annoying cycle of hear say? Well in the African Folktale Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema, mosquito causes a lot of trouble among the creatures in the forest when he spreads an silly lie about iguana. This lie is spread among the animals in the forest, which leads to a tragic event involving poor little owlet.

I used this book as a community building book because my students are having a difficult time with spreadin
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A prolific American children's author and teacher, Verna Norberg Aardema Vugteveen - more commonly known as Verna Aardema - was born in 1911 in New Era, Michigan. She was educated at Michigan State University, and taught grade school from 1934-1973. She also worked as a journalist for the Muskegon Chronicle from 1951-1972. In 1960 she published her first book, the collection of stories, Tales from ...more

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