A lacewing whose family wrangles aphids hopes she can earn her lasso in this chapter book for children ages 7 to 10.
Young Libby Lacewing loves her life in Farmer Owens’ apple orchard, where her family’s job is to herd destructive aphids into the Wild, which is the forest to the west. All winter, Libby has hoped for her own lasso in anticipation of spring, but she got only a new pair of leaf boots and a cowboy hat. She’ll have a chance to prove herself as a wrangler, though, when her grandfather asks her to take a leaf of aphids across Sap River. Libby’s cousin Lars predicts disaster, betting she’ll lose every aphid. Her friend Oliver, “a self-proclaimed Junior knight”—in reality, a ladybug from a Midwestern garden’s English rosebush—passes on a prophecy from the lightning bugs: Sap River is cursed, and crossing it means losing something, being immersed in water, and taking a ride on a swamp creature. After getting her five aphids onto a leaf, Libby sets off poling through sticky Sap River but soon runs into trouble, losing her cargo. Vowing to find the insects again, Libby searches with Oliver—and discovers a whole aphid ranch run by ants. With a plan, some luck, and courage, Libby might be able to risk the curse and get all the aphids to the Wild. West (The Monster of Bogbean Swamp, 2018) admits in a coda that lacewings and ladybugs actually eat aphids rather than safely relocating them, but that doesn’t get in the way of this enjoyable coming-of-age tale that cleverly calls on Western tropes. The adventures, rescues, and three-part curse have excitement and unexpected twists, such as an aphid stampede. Oliver is an excellent and doughty companion (“Do not fear,” he reassures Libby when a spider attacks. “I have mastered the art of web fung shu”). Libby’s jeering cousin, meanwhile, makes a good foil as someone to overcome. The vintage-feeling, black-and-white illustrations by Pavlova (The Monster of Bogbean Swamp, 2018, etc.) are dynamic and amusing.
An entertaining tale about taking on fresh responsibilities and achieving a new status.