Roberta spends her time rescuing tiny creatures. She flips over pillbugs and moves worms from sidewalks. But everyone around her doesn’t understand. Her classmates make fun of her and her teacher insists that she wash her hands. At home, her cat helps out and so does her little brother, watching as she takes the ladybug outside safely. Some of the creatures, Roberta gets to know better before she has to release them. Others are only welcome in certain places and still others bite. If Roberta finds a dead creature, she collects them to look at how beautiful they are. When spiders emerge at school, Roberta is able to figure out a solution that has everyone helping out and gets the spiders safely outside. After the spider excitement, Maria approaches Roberta at recess and the two dream of all of the larger animals they can rescue together, maybe with a bit more help.
Manley takes the ickiness of bugs and worms away and instead celebrates them as creatures worthy of saving. Roberta is a wonderful example of what paying attention to small things can become, showing a deep kindness towards all lifeforms and the brain of a scientist as she gathers more information. With the spider incident at school, Roberta fully comes into her own as she takes her knowledge and turns it into shared action. It’s a brilliant and affirming moment that becomes a way to connect with others with similar interests.
Cummins uses her signature simple illustrations to great effect here. Their whimsical nature adds to the special appeal of insects and bugs and show how Roberta feels connected to them.
A buggy book of daily heroism. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.
The Paul Bunyan myth gets transformed by a young Chinese-American girl growing up in the logging camps in this graphic novel. Mei shares her stories about Auntie Po just as freely as she shares her stellar pies. She is the daughter of the camp cook and helps out her father in the kitchen. The manager of the camp loves her pies and is friends with her father, but that only goes so far. The Chinese men logging are fed separately. When her father is fired, Mei is left behind at the camp with her best friend. Mei uses her stories of Po Pan Yin, Auntie Po, to give all of the children in the camp a heroine they can believe in. Mei must find a way through the politics of race and privilege to find a future for herself and her father in America.
Khor offers a mix of tall tale and riveting real life in this graphic novel. She weaves in LGBT elements as Mei has feelings for Bee, her best friend. The use of sharing tales to provide comfort combines seamlessly with also offering food. Mei is a girl with a future that seems out of reach much of the time, but comes into focus by the end of the book. The book looks directly at racism in the years after the Chinese Exclusion Act and offers a mixture of characters that are racist and allies for Mei to encounter and deal with.
The art focuses on the characters themselves, sometimes offering glimpses of the Sierra Nevada scenery too. Chapters begin with different logging tools being featured and described. The art is full of bold colors, the huge Auntie Po, and the busyness of a logging camp and its kitchen.
A fascinating look at logging from a Chinese-American point of view combined with some really tall tales. Appropriate for ages 9-12.