ANTics by Dakota Douglas

ANTics is an adventure fantasy in the classic style specifically aimed at younger readers. It has a quest, heroic deeds of derring-do, an evil nemesis with seemingly magical powers and enough action to keep even the most demanding of young readers entertained. All this is set in, and around, an ant colony at the bottom of an English country garden.

This story is very cleverly written and never underestimates the intelligence and sophistication of its target audience. From the point of view of a critical adult, the story is extremely well constructed. Well defined characters and scenery help to make it an enjoyable reading experience. I particularly liked the way that the author sometimes interleaved perspectives between chapters.

The anthropomorphisation (oops, I’ve a feeling I just made up a word but, I hope you get the idea) is never exaggerated or unbelievable. You, therefore, feel real empathy for the ants as they struggle through their various tribulations. The story is well paced and was steady enough to keep my seven year old absorbed over the several nights I read it as his bedtime story.

There is also a strong educational thread running through the book. This is wonderfully woven into the fabric of the story and does not interfere with it in any way. Before the reader realizes it they are far more knowledgeable about ants, and other residents of ‘the crawly kingdom’, than they were before they began reading. Even a social issue like bullying is dealt with in the same delicate fashion and does not compromise the integrity of the narrative.

Personally, I found the constant jeopardy quite wearing and I prefer my adventures to be a little more episodic. I like it when the danger and peril is continuous rather than continual. In other words, a couple of less potentially lethal chapters would have suited my tastes better. That being said, however, the story was not aimed at me, now was it? My son did not seem to share my reservations. He was engaged, entertained and informed. What more could a parent want from a book?

A four star, highly recommended, read. This is a great book that really its the mark.



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