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The Ant Bully

Last updated Monday, August 4, 2008

Author: John Nickle
Date of Publication: 1999
ISBN: 0590395912
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2008

Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly

Miniature worlds can be big attractions, as the films Antz and A Bug's Life show. Unfortunately, this insect adventure, concerning a boy who mistreats ants, provides no basis for its fantasy plot and evokes little sympathy for its hero. Lucas, who wears a goofy propeller cap and nerdish glasses, suffers the taunts of a tough kid named Sid. After Sid blasts him with a water hose, Lucas gets a squirt gun and does the same to a colony of ants. Alas, Lucas is no match for his would-be victims, who use a magical green potion to reduce him to their size and then sentence him to hard labor. ("Don't you realize how long and hard we work to build what you destroy in seconds?" huffs the Queen, who lounges on a pink chaise, smoking through a golden cigarette holder and nibbling gumdrops.) Once Lucas learns a lesson in community, the ants restore him to his original proportions, then devise a predictable comeuppance for his hose-toting nemesis (shrinkage, of course). Nickle's fine-line acrylic illustrations accent the slender digits and mandibles of the black ants; except for the long-lashed Queen Ant, the identical drones, wasps and spider here are painted in entomological detail. The author credibly anthropomorphizes ant societies, stressing equality and cooperation. Yet the facile conclusion denies Lucas a chance to succeed on human terms.

Note to readers:
•  You can try a picture walk and have the kids guess the story. Some vocabulary words to go over before reading the story: awkward, sentence (punishment), stunned, drones.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever seen The Ant Bully movie? Have you read the book? Which did you like better? Why?
•  Do you know which came first, the movie or the book? (the book)
•  Look at the cover: What is happening? Does the boy look like he's having fun? Do the ants look like they're having fun?
•  Why do you think the boy is being mean to the ants?
•  Have you ever bullied ants?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Has anyone ever picked on you? How did it make you feel?
•  Have you ever picked on anyone else? Did it make you feel better? How do you think it made the other person feel?
•  Does Lucas look like he's having fun helping the ants work, gather food, and protect the colony?
•  Why do you think ants collect leaves, twigs, and food? What do you think ants eat?
•  What do you think "swell jell" is?
•  What does Lucas realize when he talks with Speedy and Rene? (That he was picking on the ants just like Sid was doing to him)
•  (Before showing the last page) What do you think will happen when Lucas sees Sid?
•  (After the story is finished) What do you think Lucas will do now that Sid is small? Do you think Lucas learned his lesson while living with the ants?

Craft ideas:
•  Make Sid, Lucas, and Ant puppets to re-enact the story. Make both a small and big Lucas as well as a small and big Sid.
•  In the page in the flower garden, we see the flowers from below from an ant's point of view. Make a 3D flower garden like this one by using construction paper to make flowers and apply to a (reinforced or cardboard) paper ground. Draw in ants on the ground.
•  Draw yourself shrunken down like Lucas and what things would look like if you were small.
•  Draw and cut out your own ant.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!