Kid: "Hey, little ant . . . ./See my shoe, can you see that?/Well, now, it's gonna squish you flat!"
This situation opens the book. The story then evolves into a dialogue between ant and kid to decide the ant's fate.
The kid feels like he can do what he wants if the ant cannot talk back, but his ant can. The ant begs for his life. Then the kid argues that ants don't feel, and no one will miss him. The ant points out that he will be missed. The kid argues that ants steal from people, and the ant protests that they only take a little. The kid says that his friends expect him to squish the ant, and the ant asks the kid to exchange places in his mind. "If you were me and I were you,/What would you want me to do?"
The book ends with "What do you think that kid should do?" This question is a nice set-up for a thoughtful discussion with your child. Unlike many books that proclaim the correct judgment, this one certainly suggests that the ant not be squished but leaves the question open. You can ask how your child's answer might change if other creatures are involved (a mosquito, a worm, a caterpillar, a butterfly, and so forth).
The rhyming scheme in the book is also set to music in the back, so you can also play and sing the book together.
Phillip Hoose is on the staff of the Nature Conservancy. His daughter and co-author, Hannah, was 9 when they wrote this book together. So another pleasure of changing perspectives here is to realize that parents and children can write books and songs together!
The illustrations are very wonderful. In several sequences, the two page spreads are developed vertically rather than horizontally. Ms. Tilley does this very well to portray the giant kid looming over the ant, and later the imaginary giant ant dominating the kid. Each illustration has a sense of movement and presence that makes them seem to come off the page. The details are very rewarding, and will encourages your youngster to look closely.
After reading this book, I suggest that you also talk about where parents and children should be more considerate of each other in what they ask and expect. The relative size differences there are important. You may be surprised to find that your children are a little more intimidated by you than you intended. If so, this book can have a wonderful application in your family . . . as well as in nature.
By the way, I avoid hurting any living creature . . . so I found this book especially charming.
See the world through the eyes of others and other creatures!
on 3 January 1999
I was one of the editors who read the text version of Hey, Little Ant and loved it. Much to my sorrow, my company decided not to publish it. Hey Little Ant is a delightful book to read (or sing) aloud and perfect way to introduce children to valuing all living creatures. I'm pleased that Tricycle published it, giving it wonderful illustrations that children find very appealing.