It isn’t often that a children’s storybook about a family of raccoons can make you smirk, cause your heart to race, fall in love with a character, and walk away feeling good, all within 80 pages. But Raccoon Rescue manages to pull it off – and we can’t get enough.
Penned by author Christa M. Miller, a writer and wildlife rehabilitation volunteer in South Carolina, and illustrated by Christian Barratt, Raccoon Rescue starts as an adorable story and ends as an adorable story, but what plays out in between is not only thrilling, but makes it impossible to not exercise critical thinking skills and experience empathy and compassion.
The story follows raccoons Mama and her three kits, Roxy, Rufus, and Renae, as the youngsters see their first humans – and have their first experience with human conflict. The story is masterfully written in a Disney-esque style that elicits a range of emotion, regardless of the age of the reader, and causes introspection in a wonderfully empathetic way.
The core of the tale is a combination of the beautiful, intimate relationship of a mother racoon and her kits, simply trying to live their lives, in a manner remarkably similar to how most readers do, as well as the challenges of youth (of both humans and raccoons) exploring their worlds and learning hard lessons. The realism of the adventures – one harrowing scene of a raccoon racing from humans that caused some heart palpitations and a possible, but unverified yelp from one reader in The Fur-Bearers’ office – is what makes the story jump out of the page, and push the reader into the characters’ situations, causing critical thinking and an escalation in empathy.
The back of the book is filled with content geared toward classrooms or community learning. It has wonderful questions that create engaging conversation about wildlife, our views of wildlife, and the roles animals have played throughout our collective cultures. Some of the assignments even seem like fun – we might try a few of them over the weekend.
Racoon Rescue is a heart-warming, thrilling, intellectually challenging book that should be in the hands of every humane educator, and the shelves of every school library. You can order it digitally or in print through author Christa Miller’s website at christammiller.com, or find it on Amazon.