Henri Bell has been sent to America to live with his Great Aunt Georgie. His father has disappeared in British Malay and his mother has gone to look for him. While staying with his aunt Henri discovers that he can communicate with insects. He suspects Georgie can too. Georgie’s neighbor is the sinister Mrs. Black who takes a peculiar interest in Henri. Henri runs away with the circus and starts working with the flea circus. He decides that he wants to travel to Malay to find his father and to capture Goliathus Hercules, a giant beetle of legend. On this journey Henri starts a metamorphosis of his own…he is turning more and more insect like. He is pursued always by Mrs. Black in one guise or another.
I really enjoyed the first part of this book where Henri learns about his new skills with insects and works with the flea circus. I loved the other characters he met at the circus: Tony, Billy and Robin. I thought it was really interesting how he kept enhancing the show with more varieties of insects with different abilities. Where I thought this story fell apart a bit was the end where they get to Malay and start looking for Goliathus Hercules. First there is Henri’s transformation which is never fully explained. The mystery of his father is cleared up, but we have no idea why the insect communication gift has seemed to occur differently with the members of the family. Then there is the evil Mrs. Black. Her desire for Goliathus Hercules and her pursuit of Henri are never explained at all and we are left wondering what it was all about. Jennifer Angus is a new author and I think she has some really interesting ideas; she just needs to work out the details a little better.