Teaching Ancient Civilizations With Children’s Literature: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon is a West Africa folk tale explaining the reason why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears.

One day, while Iguana is at the watering hole, Mosquito shows up and tries to tell him about a farmer growing yams as big as Mosquito is.  Annoyed, Iguana puts sticks in his ears so he no longer has to hear what Mosquito says. Python shows up at the watering hole and starts to talk to Iguana, but with the sticks in his ears Iguana can’t hear a thing Python is saying.  Python worries that Iguana is planning mischief against him seeks safety in Rabbit’s hole.  When Rabbit sees Python coming down her Rabbit hole she becomes worried she is going to be eaten and flees from her hole.  Crow sees Rabbit running for her life and decides he needs to spend the word about the ‘apparent’ approaching danger.  When Monkey hears Crow’s cries he runs through the trees trying to get away from the dangerous beast.  While running through the trees, Monkey hits a dead limb which falls on a nest and kills a baby owlet.  When Mother Owl comes back to her nest and finds her little owlet dead she stays in her nest all day and night.  Mother Owl has the responsibility of waking the sun each day, but because she is so sad over her owlet she does not hoot for the sun and the other animals fear the sun will never come back.  King Lion calls a meeting of all the animals and when Mother Owl does not come, he sends Antelope to fetch her.  When she shows up Lion asks her why she has not risen the sun she tells him about Monkey killing her owlet.  Monkey is then summoned and tells Lion about being startled by the crow and one by one the animals come forward and explain why they acted the way they did.  Finally Iguana shows up and explains he did not know Python was trying to talk to him because he had the sticks in his ears.  When Iguana explains that he only had the sticks in his ears because he did not want to hear the lies that Mosquito telling him.  The other animals want Mosquito punished and Mother Owl feels satisfied and she raises the sun.  Mosquito, who was hiding under a leaf during the meeting and heard the whole proceeding, flies away and is never found by the council of animals.  But, to this day because she has a guilty conscience, she goes around whining in people’s ears asking “Is everyone still angry at me?”.

Curriculum Connections
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears is suitable to be used with grades K – 3. This book could be used to present a picture time line of the sequence of events starting with Mosquito’s lie to Mother Owl losing her owlet (VA SOL 1.1).  This book would also be a great example of the West African oral tradition of storytelling (VA SOL 3.2).

Additional Resources

  • This website has several different lesson plans to use in different academic subjects.
  • This website has two extension activities for the book.
  • This website has seven different writing extension activities for the book.

Book: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
Author: Verna Aardema
Illustrator: Leo and Diane Dillon
Publisher: Puffin/Dial
Publication Date: 1975
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3

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