In this West African folk tale, retold by Verna Aardema, a mosquito brags to an iguana that he spied a farmer digging yams as big as mosquitoes. The iguana scoffs at such a notion and refuses to listen to any more nonsense. Grumbling, he puts sticks in his ears and scuttles off through the reeds and sets off a chain reaction among myriad animals inhabiting the same landscape.
The iguana offends a friendly python, who shoots down a rabbit hole and terrifies a rabbit. Seeing the rabbit scares a crow overhead, who spreads an alarm that danger is near. When a monkey reacts to the alarm, an owlet is killed, which sets off a wave of grieving in the mother owl so profound that she is unable to wake the sun each day with her hooting.
The nights grow longer, and when the King Lion calls a meeting to get to the bottom of the situation, the chain of events is traced back to the source of all the trouble, the pesky mosquito. Finding the culprit satisfies the mother owl, who calls the sun back again. But, alas, the mosquito is forever plagued with a guilty conscience, compelling him forever to be a pest.
The vibrant neo-primitive illustrations, which earned this title a Caldecott medal in 1976, enhance and embellish the tale. This is a timeless story sure to charm a wide range of readers and listeners.