Author Angela Stevens
Illustrator Matthew Moir
George McGregor is the type of eight year old who spends his day wearing a cobbled together super hero costume. Armed with a secret power — a handy-dandy travel-sized pack of tissues — he saves the day and leaves the world tear and runny nose free.
When his super hero-ing becomes mundane, a chance wish on a dandelion clock brings a new friend into George’s life. But this friend has a secret and its discovery leads to a larger than life adventure in a smaller than life world. With Mariquita as his ladybug guide, George experiences the fun and danger of an insect’s life.
Mariquita is a feel good story that explores the meaning of true friendship. It offers a smorgasbord of humorous insect characters that kids will enjoy.
MARIQUITA flew through the inky darkness towards an overgrown rhododendron. The bush lay just outside the fence and was where her family lived.
A warm yellow glow flashed in front of her. “Hi there, Angel, I thought you went home ages ago.” She landed on the rose arch.
“Hola mi pequeña mariquita!” She smiled. It was the firefly’s insistence on calling her ‘his little ladybug’ that gave her the idea for her name. It always sounded so pretty the way he said, mariquita.
“I wanted to make sure you got home safe and sound.” Angel was her oldest friend. Of course, he wouldn’t leave without making sure she was okay.
“Was that the human niño you told me about?” He landed next to her.
Mariquita shuffled along the green leaf towards a little cluster of aphids. All this changing from ladybug to human and back again, had made her hungry.
“Umhuh omph, yes.” Her mouth was soon full of juicy green bodies.
They squished and crunched in her sharp jaws. The green bugs ran away as fast as their little aphid legs could carry them. But that wasn’t very fast. Mariquita only had to stretch a little to pluck another from the leaf. She held them between her mandibles, squeezing until they popped. Yum, aphids are my favorites.
Angel leaped up and down in excitement, his abdomen flashing on and off. “Oh Dios! Mariquita. I couldn’t believe it. When you turned back into a mariquita, right in front of the little boy.”
Aphid were messy little critters. Their goo spurted everywhere when she bit into them. She emptied her mouth and cleaned up with one of her legs. That was better, that snack had taken the edge off her hunger.
Angel’s abdomen flashed like Morse code as he fired questions at her. “What did he say, mi hija? Was he scared? Did he catch you? Were you put in a jar? Uff, did he try to squish you? Is he still tu amigo? Are you gonna change again? Can I bring my mi familia to watch next time, si?”
On and on, he went. Mariquita stood up on her back legs and put her middle legs to her hips, then she put her third pair of legs over her ladybug ears. “Hush now, you excitable firefly. You’ll wake up the whole insect world. No, no, no. You can’t bring your family, this is a secret, remember?”
MARIQUITA stretched out on the dandelion. Her tiny belly was stuffed to bursting. After Angel left, she’d found a colony of black fly and wasted no time eating her breakfast. Now she decided to take a short nap before going to see George.
She was just dozing off, when the stem of the dandelion shook. The flower pitched forwards and then sprung back, giving Mariquita a roller coaster ride.
“‘Ere, watch out, you crazy beetle,” said a loud gruff voice.
“Who put that there? Dog-gone-it, I can’t see nuttin’ past this pile o’ pooh.”
“Darn it, Poop. You should go ‘round fings, what’s wiv all the straight lines? ‘Sides, just for once, couldn’t we go out for a walk wiv out you havin’ to bring a ball o’manure back wit ya?”
“Aw y’all kiddin’ me arn’t ya, Gladys is gonna luv this! You sure don’t find dung lying around like this every day. It smells so sweet and…”
“Hey, do you guys mind? I’m trying to take a nap up here.” Mariquita peeped over the side of the dandelion. Her bright red coat clashed with its vivid yellow petals. Oh it’s them two. I should have guessed!
Down below she saw Poop, the dung beetle and his cousin Poke, a rhino beetle. Of all the fools I had to run into today it had to be them.
“Oy d’ya hear that?” Poop whirled around looking left and right.
Poke trembled. “W…what was it?”
Mariquita folded her legs in front of her and smiled. Fun time! “It is the Goddess of the golden dandelion.”
Poop and Poke looked at the yellow flower. Mariquita ducked out of sight. She plucked a petal and rolled it into a cone shape and held it to her mouth. Projecting her voice she made it sound loud and menacing. “How dare you gaze at the Goddess without kneeling.”
The two beetles trembled so much that she could hear their knees knocking even on top of the flower.
“S…sorry, oh mighty Goddess.” Poop dropped to his knees, burying his head in the dirt. Poke followed, jamming his long horn into a pile of leaves.
“Why do you dare to wake the Goddess?”
Poke looked up, he had leaf matter stuck all down his horn. Mariquita peered through the petals and couldn’t help but laugh. She rolled around on her back, her little feet clasped over her mouth so they didn’t hear her.
“Mighty Goddess, we are just two stupid bugs goin’ ‘bout our busy-ness. We did not know y’all lived up there.”
“Foolishness is no excuse. I should strike you down with my mighty powers.”
Poop and Poke ran. Unfortunately, they both ran towards each other. Spinning across the ground they gained control and tried again. A second crash put Poop on his back, his legs kicking in the air. “Have mercy Great Goddess. Please, please I—”
Poke righted him and they clutched each other in fear.
Laughing uncontrollably, Mariquita slid down the dandelion stem and landed on the path in front of them.
If they had more than one brain cell between them, they might be dangerous!
I came to writing late in life- in fact so late I almost missed it. I never wrote as a teen or dabbled as a young adult. In fact I only put pen to paper- or rather fingers to keyboard – about three and a half years ago.
In my past life I was a teacher. For most of that time I taught the youngest children entering school. I had both a personal and professional passion for children’s stories. I loved Roald Dahl and classics such as The Secret Garden and Tom’s Midnight Garden.
For many years teaching children to read was my passion, but when I moved to the USA I left my chosen career and I had to find a new one. It took me a while to find my way but one day I had a notion to try my hand at writing. Starting with Adult Romances I then moved onto Young Adult/ new Adult Fantasies. Mariquita is my first journey into Children’s fiction.
The Story Behind The Story
Mariquita started out as something I wrote to give away. At the time I was very involved on a reading website called wattpad. There I met a wonderful group of authors and we bandied together to form a book group. Our fearless leader, Jason, would keep us interested and creative by coming up with little projects. He had a new idea to get us writing collaboratively and wanted us to donate a ‘first chapter,’ which could be worked on by members of the group to produce a collaborative story. I wrote a fledgling version of Mariquita for Jason to use. He sent it back with some editing notes, and I revised and then passed back to him. That night, however, I couldn’t get Mariquita out of my head. By lunchtime the next day I asked for it back. A full story was forming.
As it happened it was almost November and I decided to enter Nanowrimo. For those of you unfamiliar with this- Nanowrimo challenges writers to write 50,000 words in the month of November. So wide-eyed and bushy tailed, I set off to write the story. By the end of the month, I not only had 50,000 words but I had a complete 89,000 word draft of the full story. It’s taken another two years to rework it into the 68k version it is today.
While I was working on the initial draft, I spent sometime each day in a FB group of writers. Several of us were doing the Nanowrimo challenge that year and it was a way for us all to keep sane. It was during our chats back and forth I hit on the idea to write them all into my story. Many of the characters in Mariquita are based on these writer friends from my group. They all know who they are, and have kindly given me permission to use their identities.
The main character of the book- George- is based on my own son. He had a wild imagination as a kid and spent most of his early years dressed as a super-hero. Many of the quirky traits of George McGregor are based on George, my son.
The faerie is also named after and based on my daughter, Daisy. She was obsessed by faeries as a child-- a passion that was fueled by her grandmother. She spent many years dressed as a flower faerie.
The other real character is Skittle. We have our very own lovable ginger cat at home with the same name. He is such a character that he just had to be in the book. We have always laughed at his ADHD tendencies and his obsession with dangly things.
Who will like Mariquita?
The story is aimed at the 8-12 year-old range. It is a full-length chapter book with an average reading age of grade 5. A comparable book is James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. My aim with this story has always been to emanate the classics, providing a challenging but charming read for children. It is a humorous and wholesome story with a sprinkling of magic and adventure. It was written to be shared, and to be read aloud. I hope you will all have fun putting your own spin on the crazy insect characters accents.
My wonderful illustrator is Matthew Moir. I met him on wattpad and he is an original member of the Facebook group that inspired the insect characters. In fact you can find him in chapter 37 where he plays ‘Mathias’ the unfortunate slug.
Matthew is a talented Aussie sci-fi writer in his own right. I first discovered his artistic talent when I was admiring a cover he’d made for the book he is working on. I am so grateful to him for donating his time to bringing my characters to life.