Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

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Why Mosquitoes
CM mosquitoes.jpg
AuthorVerna Aardema
IllustratorLeo and Diane Dillon
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's picture book
PublisherDial Books
Publication date
[398.2] E
LC ClassPZ8.1.A213 Wh

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale is a 1975 picture book by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon told in the form of a cumulative tale written for young children, which tells an African legend. In this origin story, the mosquito lies to a lizard, who puts sticks in his ears and ends up frightening another animal, which down a long line causes a panic. In the end, an owlet is killed and the owl is too sad to wake the sun until the animals hold court and find out who is responsible. The mosquito is eventually found out, but it hides in order to escape punishment. So now it constantly buzzes in people's ears to find out if everyone is still angry at it.

The artwork was made using watercolor airbrush, pastels, and India ink. The cutout shapes were made by using friskets and vellum cut shapes at different angles.[1]

The book won a Caldecott Medal in 1976 for the Dillons.[2] It was the first of their two consecutive Caldecott wins; the second was for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions.[2]

Cause and effect[edit]

This story is a resource for teachers to teach the skill cause and effect: "A cause is something that makes something else happen; An effect is what happens as a result of the cause" [3]

The idea that the mosquito is to blame for the unfortunate death of the owlet is an example of cause and effect. The actions from the other animals also offers several more examples of cause and effect as each animal does something that causes the next animal to do something. This chain of events finally causes the owlet to die. Teachers can use this text to show students how actions (causes) make other things happen (effect).

In other media[edit]

The book was adapted into an animated short in 1984, narrated by James Earl Jones.


  1. ^ Aardema, Verna; Leo and Diane Dillon (1975). Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. Dial Books.
  2. ^ a b American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. URL accessed 27 May 2009.
  3. ^ Dell, D. "Cause and Effect Mini Lesson." N.p., 09/12/2005. Web. 28 Mar 2011.
Preceded by
Arrow to the Sun
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Ashanti to Zulu