Cricket characters jump off the page in new children’s book

Jan 12, 2019

ROCHESTER — When Sarah Stubbs was choosing characters for her first book she asked: Why not a cricket?

Two of her main characters, Alexander Cricket and Rillie, are crickets, joined on their adventures by Bert Beetle, whose large stature and tendency to eat everything he can was inspired by Rob Gronkowski. 

For Stubbs, a 26-year Rochester resident, writing her first book has been a way to draw on and fictionalize her work with animals, hone her craft as a writer, and realize how much characters take on a life of their own.

Her first novel, “The Reluctant Detective,” follows the story of Alexander Cricket, a shy young cricket who goes after his father when the older cricket, and other crickets on Cranberry Mills Farm disappear.

Along the way he meets up with a tree cricket and Japanese beetle, who save him from a dangerous situation and eventually become his friends and fellow detectives.

The 53,000 word book is aimed at middle grade students, and will be published in February once the illustrations are completed.

Stubbs credits her job as a horse trainer and her own experiences enjoying books about animals with her decision to have non-human characters.

“Because I spend so much time training horses you start reading their facial and body language and feeling like they are human. I do that with a lot of the animals in my life,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs’ father was a writer and encouraged her to try writing over the years. She started with short humorous essays, which she would show her family for feedback.

She got the idea for The Reluctant Detective when she freed a cricket that she saw trapped in a spiderweb, and then started imagining ways that the cricket could have gotten there.

The hardest part of crafting the novel for her was coming up with a plot, and the easiest was coming up with the dialogue.

Sometimes, the dialogue between her characters (all of who have strong personalities), would get in the way of her planned plot, and she would have to re-plot entire chapters.

“They take on a life of their own, and sometimes the dialogue spills out of me and they don’t say what I want them to say,” Stubbs said, adding that “sometimes they make me cringe a bit.”

Her characters have taken on such complex and interesting lives, Stubbs now sees the book as the first in a series.She hopes that her subsequent books will give her a chance to work on her plots. 

Stubbs did multiple interviews with illustrators, and originally planned on just having NutJT do the cover art, and concept map for Cranberry Mills Farm.

“But when I saw what she had done I fell in love with it. She captures the spirit of the characters so well, and they are just like I imagined,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs will publish on Amazon when the book is completed, but also plans to approach local stores to see if they would like to sell The Reluctant Detective.