Roxy, Rufus, and Renae are three young raccoons who are slowly learning how to live in the world beyond their den. But when humans come to their creek, the world suddenly expands far beyond what they thought was possible — or what their Mama was prepared to teach them. After one of the human children takes one of the kits home, the young raccoons mount a dangerous rescue mission to get their little sister back.
The first in the Living Wild Side by Side series, Raccoon Rescue, an illustrated chapter book designed with a dyslexia-friendly font, shows how human misperceptions of wildlife (and, perhaps, vice versa) can lead to unintended and unfortunate consequences.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer with the Midwest Book Review, calls Raccoon Rescue:
a satisfyingly different perspective than kids may be used to… both hilarious and thought-provoking… the perfect next step for nature-loving readers [as a] gentle, fun tale of animals learning to get along.”
John Griffin, Director of Urban Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, said:
“I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting, sometimes harrowing story about the individual lives of this family of raccoons. This story entertainingly winds through the lives of young raccoons growing up in a suburban community and in the course of that storytelling reviews and imparts life lessons that are universal to animal and human alike… the reader is carried along to the conclusion and a reuniting that portrays the strength and courage of a mother’s love.”
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals in Vancouver, BC, noted:
“…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…. Raccoon 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.”
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Appropriate for children ages 7 to 9, Raccoon Rescue comes with a set of curriculum enhancements, including discussion questions and a glossary quiz, and extension activities that teachers or homeschoolers can implement as part of their literature, science, and/or social studies curricula. The activities adhere to US Common Core standards for Grades 2 and 3.
Raccoons are among the most adaptable species, but also among the least understood. Seeing people disgusted by “disease-carrying” animals — at the same time that professional rehabilitators treat them for distemper, worms, and even (via vaccination) rabies — drove me to write Raccoon Rescue from the point of view of animals who are as uncertain about humans as we can be about them, hopefully to make us think about how we see them, and the small steps we can all take to correct them towards humane, peaceful coexistence with our wild neighbors.
Read an Excerpt
On the other side of the stream, at the top of the steep sandy bank, a small two-footed creature came into view. It had barely any fur, just on the top of its head, hanging down long and pale in the moonlight. On its body, instead of fur, hung something that looked like giant leaves. Even though it had bare feet, it looked unprotected. And it was making strange snuffling sounds, as if sniffing for something, even if it didn’t look like it was foraging.
“Oh, no,” Mama murmured. “It’s a human.”
“What’s a human?” Rufus asked.
“That’s a human,” Roxy said, but she turned to Mama. “It has a flat face. Is that the creature you were talking about before? The one whose bottle was in the stream? Does it live in the woods? Why haven’t we seen one before?”
“Yes, humans are the creatures who use bottles. No, they don’t live in the woods.” Mama’s whisper was quieter than normal. “That’s a young human. Not a baby but not old enough to be on its own. Especially not at night. They aren’t nocturnal like we are.”
“Do you think it could have rabies?” Rufus worried.
Renae pressed closer to Mama. “What’s rabies?” she wanted to know.
“It’s a horrible disease that makes you walk around in circles and foam at the mouth,” said Roxy.
“Roxy, stop,” said Mama. “That little human doesn’t have rabies. It’s just alone and scared.”
“But its nose is running,” Rufus started. “And it’s making that strange snuffling sound.”
“Humans do that when they’re scared,” Mama said. “It’s normal. When you see a human acting normal, the best thing to do is leave it alone.”
“Can we adopt it?” asked Rufus. “Raise it like a raccoon?”
Roxy pounced on a beetle. “How can we raise it? It doesn’t look like it could do this.” She speared the beetle with her claws and popped it in her mouth, where she crunched loudly. “Besides, like Mama said, they aren’t nocturnal.”
“But look at it,” Rufus insisted. “It’s as scared as you were when Mama moved our den and you thought she wasn’t coming back for us.”
“I wasn’t scared.” Roxy arched her back and fluffed up her scruff fur. “Mama would never leave us. Why should we be responsible for a human just because its mama left it behind?” She snatched another beetle.
“No, we can’t raise it,” Mama said. “Roxy is right. Not only aren’t humans nocturnal, but they also don’t hunt. Not like we do, anyway. And their mamas don’t leave their babies behind any more than we do. That means she can’t be far.” Mama poked her nose out of the shrub and sniffed the air. “Anyway, that would be kidnapping,” she continued. “Just like if a human decided to keep one of you in its den.”
“Oh,” Renae worried, “I don’t want to live with humans in their den! Please, let’s go back to our safe tree!”
“We’ll be fine if we stay out of sight under here, and if we’re quiet.” Mama stared meaningfully at Roxy and Rufus.
“If human mamas don’t leave their babies, then why is it alone?” Rufus asked.
“Maybe they’re nearby and we just can’t see them,” Roxy said. “Mama, do you smell them?”
“No,” said Mama. She frowned. “I wonder if it’s lost.”
“I hear something,” said Rufus. “Ssh!”
Before long they could hear more human voices calling, “Hannah! Hannah!”
“That must be its family,” Roxy whispered loudly. “We should go back to our den just in case they smell us and try to come get us.”
“Let’s go back now,” Renae cried. “I’m scared.”
“Hush, Roxy,” Mama growled. “Stop scaring your sister. Humans can’t smell raccoons, and they won’t try to get us if they’re focused on finding the other human.” But she herded them all back towards the den-tree anyway.
The small human had heard the voices too. Just as the four raccoons began to climb their tree, it turned around and walked a few steps back away from the riverbank. “Mommy!” it called. “Mommy!”
Two bigger humans burst through the brush like a pair of foxes. Renae, even though she was the littlest, had been the first to reach the den, and now she squealed and dove headfirst inside. But Roxy and Rufus stayed high on a branch, watching. This was the first time they had ever heard of humans, much less seen them. They were fascinated.
“Oh, Hannah,” the taller of the two humans wailed, scooping the smallest human into her arms. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
(“Human mamas don’t pick their babies up with their mouths?” Rufus whispered to Roxy.)
“Are you hurt, Hannah?” the shorter human asked, stroking the small human’s long, pale fur. “Did anything out here bite you?”
(“It figures the first thing they think about us animals is that we bite,” Roxy mumbled to Rufus.)
They couldn’t hear what the little human said to its family, but then the tall human turned to the shorter one. “Helena? What is Hannah doing out here by herself? Weren’t you watching her?”
“Of course I was watching her! Can’t I even just go to the bathroom!” the shorter human yelled.
“You have to make sure someone else is watching her,” the mama human said. “You can’t assume she’ll stay in one place.”
“You always blame me for everything!” the shorter human screamed, and before long, the entire family was shouting.
“See,” Roxy snorted. “They do have rabies. The whole family. Listen to them snarling like wolves.”
“That’s not rabies,” Mama said. “They’re fighting with each other.”
“Like when we roughhouse,” said Rufus.
“We don’t roughhouse like that,” Roxy argued. “They’re mean, just like I said.”
They watched the human family walk back through the bushes, fighting the entire way. Before long the woods were quiet once more, and Mama coaxed Renae out of the den. “We have to finish eating,” she said. “I don’t like when you three go a day without food.”
But the fighting family had scared the fish away. Even though Rufus found more berries for everyone and Roxy managed to scrounge some grubs from underneath the ground, the three little raccoons’ bellies were growling by the time they settled back in the den for the morning. “I’ll just have to go searching for more food,” Mama sighed.
“Don’t go, Mama,” Renae cried, clinging to her fur, but Mama nipped her gently on the flank so that Renae had to let go.
Rufus snuggled up next to her. “Don’t cry, baby sister,” he said, “you’ve got us!”
The little raccoons watched as Mama scurried down the tree and onto the ground. But instead of going deeper into the woods, Mama crossed the stream, balancing on the old log. She made her way up the steep riverbank that the humans had been standing on not long before. She began to move in the same direction they had gone, towards where the sun was rising over the treetops.
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