Review: The Big Dreams of Small Creatures
The Big Dreams of Small Creatures
by Gail Lerner
Nancy Paulsen Books (imprint of Penguin Random House), 2022
A few small quibbles: the transition from the realism of the first few chapters to the pure fantasy of the rest of the book is slightly jarring, and the whirlwind tour of the Institute's many customized insect spaces can be hard to follow. However, the concept of communicating with insects through empathy (combined with sound, vibration, Morse code, and semaphore) is intriguing, and the action is non-stop. The important message of the importance of pollinators is conveyed with a light touch. Young readers are likely to enjoy the ride very much.
Eden's mother is white and Jewish and her father is Black and Christian. Her identity is laid out on page 17, where we learn about the ways that the family thinks about Eden, and about her own comfort being "mixed." There are a few other mentions of her identity, as with a meditation on the danger of living while Black (starting on page 85) and a fairly long discussion (starting on page 145) comparing the celebrations of "humble little Hanukkah" and "big, showy Christmas." Eden displays an admirable commitment to tikkun olam (healing the world) but her Judaism is not a significant factor within the story. That said, it's a pleasure to welcome this charming biracial Jewish character to the pantheon of children's literature.
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bookoflifepodcast.com. Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.