Miss Lee and the Mosquito
by Maria L. Denjongpa, illustrated by Anna Vojtech
(Scholastic (India), 2013)
You’re just settling down for a good night’s sleep when you are brought wide awake by a quiet but penetrating, high-pitched drone – yes, it’s the dreaded mosquito! We’ve all encountered it, and the ensuing fun and games to find the wretched thing.
So we can all empathise with Miss Lee in Maria L. Denjongpa’s delightful book Miss Lee and the Mosquito. It will have young readers/listeners laughing with glee at the antics of the wretched mosquito, thanks also to Anna Vojtech’s graphic depiction of the exuberant little creature with an impish face and expressive hands instead of two of its legs.
Miss Lee is visiting a friend in a village in Sikkim, in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. She loves sleeping in her friend’s shrine room, with its incense and staues of Buddha and everything seems perfect for a refreshing night’s sleep. However, every evening she is faced by a dilemma because, just as she lies down, she is disturbed by the mosquito – and while she is filled with a desire to kill it, she realises that, as her friend has told her, it isn’t good to kill anything in the shrine room, ‘not even a tiny bug!’ What ensues is an inevitable and hilariously futile series of attempts to get away from the equally determined mosquito.
Miss Lee and the Mosquito is a great bedtime story that both parent and child will enjoy over and over again. It is also a special book because, whilst we can all empathise with the story, it is strongly rooted in Sikkim. Its specific location is reflected in the beautiful illustration at the beginning of the story, showing Miss Lee greeting her friend as she arrives in the village. Indeed, Vojtech has dedicated the book to the children of Taktse School, of which Dengjonpa is one of the founding members. Imagine the delight of those children seeing their home depicted here – but this is a stoiry with universal appeal.
Watch Maria Deponga talking about Miss Lee and the Mosquito at last year’s Bookaroo festival: