Fun and fanciful: Mr. Mosquito is back! | Columnists

The bugs are back and, once again, donning their formal wear.

Northeast Indiana is literally the literary capital of the bug formal wear world! And author Barb Morrow is rolling out the red carpet for thank yous to the friends who aided with Mr. Mosquito’s dapper and debonair demeanor.

Morrow’s hardback picture book “Mr. Mosquito Put On His Tuxedo” has just been re-released. It’s also available in paperback, as an audio book and as a coloring book!

Morrow will be signing books from 4-6 pm Thursday, July 7, at Paper Gourmet, 115 N. Main St., Auburn.

Books are also available through major online retailers.

“Mr. Mosquito Put On His Tuxedo” was first published in 2009 by Holiday House, a children’s book publishing company in New York City. Morrow dedicated the book to Deb Argast, a beloved and now deceased children’s librarian at Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, and to the seven northeast Indiana teachers/children’s writing coaches who had input with the project: Julia Nixon, Mindy Hoffar, Kathy Douglas, Sandie Kern, Elizabeth Boody Smith, Crystal Leu and Natalie Nelson. Many of them are now retired.

The teachers — members of a group known as All Write!!! — and Morrow went to a literacy conference in New York in 2006. While the teachers attended the conference, Morrow met with her Holiday House editor who liked the “Mr. Mosquito” manuscript but said some issues needed to be resolved.

At dinner that evening, Morrow shared the editor’s comments with the teachers, and a lively brainstorming session ensued.

“By the meal’s end, I had a clear sense of how I intended to change the manuscript,” Morrow said. “I summarized work right away, submitted a revised version, and the editor quickly presented me with a contract. Those teachers were good writing coaches!”

Holiday House secured Ponder Goembel to illustrate the manuscript. Morrow said she “absolutely loved her colorful, detailed and playful drawings of her from the moment I saw them.”

The book had a good run but eventually Holiday House decided not to print more copies — leaving many parents and grandparents disappointed and searching online for used copies.

Based on emails she continued to receive through her website, Morrow sensed there was still a market (locally and around the nation) for the book. “For example, a mosquito control company in Georgia contacted me at one point, saying they were interested in buying copies for their customers. I had to tell them no more copies were available.”

In June 2019, the Weedon Island Preserve, a cultural and natural history center in St. Petersburg, Florida, sponsored a “Mr. Mosquito Put On His Tuxedo” Storytime program, during which the book was read to kids and then young children made a mosquito craft. Instructors taught them about mosquito body parts, how and where mosquitoes grow and live, and how people can be “mosquito safe” while outdoors.

In 2019, she was contacted by Andrew Thiriot of Texas, and they discussed making “Mr. Mosquito” into an audiobook. Thiriot had come across the book in a bookstore in Utah. He loved reading it to his young children and memorized nearly all the text.

A singer, songwriter and music producer, Thiriot was enthusiastic about producing an audiobook of “Mr. Mosquito” with himself as the narrator, employing a British accent! It came out in 2020.

Then he and Morrow decided to bring the book out again in hardback and also in paperback. They contacted the illustrator to learn if she would be interested. (She retained the illustration rights, just as Morrow owned the text rights.) She liked the idea.

Thiriot, serving as publisher, recommended adding to “Mr. Mosquito” coloring book to the collection, and they agreed.

When first published in 2009, reviewers applauded “Mr. Mosquito” for its clever rhymes (Booklist), jaunty beat (Kirkus Reviews), and — what The Horn Book called — “shivery fun.”

Thiriot previously composed and produced the score for “Secrets of the Trials.” Listeners have streamed his music over 50,000 times, especially on Pandora. His most popular piano solo on Spotify is “Waltz of Daughters.” As a singer-songwriter he has performed at local venues in Utah as well as for his youtube channel viewers at youtube.com/c/andrewthiriot.

“Perspective is a big word,” Morrow commented, pointing out that Mr. Mosquito comes out of the grass with a bug’s eye view of the world. “Readers share a change in perspective — and that has real life implications…

“Sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture,” Morrow said. “When our perspective changes, we see things differently.”

Another of the many reasons we roll out the red carpet for “Mr. Mosquito!”

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.