As a child I remember having an affinity for bugs. At least certain species of bugs. Ladybugs, roly-poly bugs, fireflies, etc. I don’t remember having any particular fear of bugs, other than some “bugs” I would never encounter living in the Pacific Northwest—scorpions and tarantulas. I really wasn’t even that afraid of bees. I remember when I was about eight years old finding a whole colony of hibernating ladybugs as I pried off the bark of a tree. My friend and I thought we’d take them and make a ladybug circus! When we them from their winter slumber, put them in a jar, and took them home, they did not fare well. Alas, no tightrope-walking bugs, no high-dive bugs, no circus bugs. In retrospect, I know that removing them from their safe and natural hibernation was wrong. And at the time I felt some kind of remorse, but probably only for a day or so until the next bit of fascination struck me.
The protagonist, in Curtis Manley’s book, The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, Roberta, is a much wiser, caring and considerate child than I was. She, as the title suggests, rescues tiny creatures.
She helped bugs stuck on their backs and couldn’t turn over, or were caught in places where they had nothing to eat, or worms that couldn’t quite make it across a wet sidewalk before the sun warmed it up.
Not all rescues go without a hitch, and not all rescuers appreciate Roberta’s efforts. Some bite, some cannot be released in the garden, and some just don’t make it. Even in their deaths, Roberta finds them beautiful.
As expected, Roberta’s school mates do not share her interest or determination to help the tiny creatures. But she involves her whole class in a rescue mission that thrills and inspires wonderment. And she gets some recruits in her pursuit to rescue tiny creatures. You just know Ms Williams’ students are all going to be better humans for what Roberta has given them.
Lucy Ruth Cummins created the sweet and perfect world for Roberta, her classmates and the tiny creatures. The art was created in gouache, pencil, charcoal and finished digitally. The book is printed on uncoated stock, making the illustrations soft and warm and engaging. Her line work is enviable, her palette is muted and comfortable and Cummins’ characters are all endearing. As are the tiny creatures!
There is some terrific back matter included in the book, too. A closer look at some of Roberta’s rescued creatures, and step by step instructions to make an origami box with a locking lid to help transfer your rescued tiny creature.
This is a lovely book about being a caring and helping person. And about how life matters—not to just us but to every living creature—big and small. Manley’s words and Cummins’ art are a wonderful match.
~kevan atteberry (Who apologizes, but will still slap the mosquito on his arm. And is still terrified of scorpions and tarantulas.)