Friday, October 22, 2021

The Littlest Things: The Rescuers of Tiny Creatures by Curtis Manley

Everyone wants to help little lost puppies or cuddly kittens. Many famous people support saving elephants and rhinos and gorillas. But Roberta cares about really little things--like gnats and bees, millipedes, and spiders!

"I rescue tiny creatures. It's a special job.." A job no one else seems to care about," says Roberta.

Roberta reads books about insects and helps beetles who get stuck on their back. She saves millipedes stuck on hot sidewalks. She removes a baby snail from the radishes in the garden. She tells lost ladybugs to fly away home! But only her cat and her little brother care enough to helps her. At school, the other kids think she is just weird!

"Ms. Williams! Roberta has been picking up worms again," tattles Luis.

"Oh, Roberta, don't touch anything!" said her teacher.

"No one has ever been harmed by earthworm slime," I say, but no one hears me.

But one day when Roberta gets to school, her teacher and all the kids are crowded into one corner of the classroom.


Hundreds of tiny spiders have just hatched and are climbing up everything in the room. Nobody knows what to do--except Roberta!

Quickly, Roberta shows them how to make small origami boxes for the spiders and teaches the kids to catch the spiders and take them outside and sit the open box beside the wall at the front of the school. Immediately the little spiders head for the wall and start to climb up the wall to the roof of the school. Ms. Williams gives Roberta the job of explaining why.

"They'll stand on tippy-toes and unfurl their spider silk. And then the breeze will float them away like balloons... to new homes!"

All the kids are wowed as they watch the little spiders soar away on the breeze. Some even want to take their box of spiders to watch from home. And one girl named Maria confides to Roberta that she wants to help her rescue little animals and even bigger animals, like pandas and pangolins, polar bears and elephants.

Author Curtis Manley's latest, The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures (Roaring Brook Press, 2021), has a lot to say about the value of kids who march to a different drummer, and the value to society that such differences in interests can play, especially those interested in science, (even KRAKENS!

Artist Lucy Ruth Cummins, who did the illustrations for the popular pumpkin season story, Stumpkin, (read my review here) adds humor and empathy for the characters in this story, even the millipede, (but maybe not the KRAKEN!) Author Manley also adds an appendix with a picture glossary of tiny critters (and the Kraken) and the directions to make a small origami box with lockable lid.

Writes Publishers Weekly's review, "... both a STEM tale about insects and a lesson in staying true to oneself, as Roberta’s distinctive interest takes her from odd kid out to minor celebrity."

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