Rebekah Fine loves seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
It’s something she gets to do every time she writes and illustrates the children’s books she carves precious bits of time out of her demanding schedule for.
“I’ll start sketching something – little creatures, critters,” Fine says. “Usually the art comes first. I’ll draw a picture and see a story in it and then start writing the story.”
Fine, a professional health sciences junior at Arizona State University, has about six books in progress now – an impressive feat for someone with her schedule. Fine takes a full course load, works part-time at a school district and mentors junior-high students at her church. It’s also an impressive feat for someone whose first love, science, does not always leave room for the madcap adventure, boundless creativity and sweet solace that the best children’s books bring.
“I enjoy accessing that part of my brain,” Fine says. “I’m a born ‘imaginator.’”
Her first completed book, “Further Than Forever,” is a loving tribute to the father-daughter bond, which she explores through the story of a runaway bear cub and her ever-pursuing dad. Fine gave the finished work to her own father as a gift.
Out of her dozens of characters, Fine’s most beloved is Bert, an oddball duck and star of “And Then There Was Bert.” Bert is different from the other ducks on the farm and has a rough time because of it. In the end, though, it’s his differences that save the day. Bert can be viewed as an avatar for Fine, whose curiosities endear her to those around her.
“She’s kind of quirky,” says Andrian McGhee, a health sciences and pre-professional “perpetual senior” who is friends and lab partners with Fine. “She’s so smart, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I mean, how seriously can you take yourself when you carry around plastic dinosaurs?”
Fine carries a few in her backpack for comic relief, which offer a reminder to have fun in the midst of her rigorous studies and gives a peek into her silly side.
“Like any stereotypical 5-year-old boy who’s a college-age girl, I like dinosaurs,” Fine says.
Another of her books, “Tea-Rex,” is a girl-power fable for the playground set. In it, a little girl wants to have a dinosaur-themed birthday party but is discouraged on the specious grounds that dinosaurs are for boys. Dejected, she happens upon a dinosaur and the two hang out, paint their nails and have a tea party. It's yet another reflection of Fine’s personality – after all, this is a girl who had a dinosaur party for her 21st birthday (she had a princess party for her 20th).
“I like things that are not stereotypically feminine, but I can still be feminine,” Fine says. “I’m very much a girl but I like to draw robots and aliens.”
Though she doesn’t have the time to finish all of her works-in-progress or pursue their publication, Fine hopes to one day be a published author and a globe-trotting relief worker before settling down to raise a family. She has already traveled to Mexico and the Dominican Republic for church mission trips and dreams of visiting India, Africa, South America, Europe and even Antarctica, “whether I have a bearded, flannel-wearing man next to me to keep me warm or not.”
Nicole Hunter, Fine’s longtime friend and mentor, whom she works with at church, can see Fine accomplishing everything on her to-do list and more.
“She’s a pretty wild card,” Hunter says. “She has a Renaissance type of personality and she’s definitely in touch with all sides of her brain. She’s articulate, scientific, logical and creative. She has a huge heart and a great degree of compassion for the hurting. In the next 20 years I wouldn’t be surprised to see those things bear fruit.”
Her compassion and sense of humor extend to her interactions with the homeless in downtown Phoenix. When they ask her for money, Fine instead offers a “cheesy joke” and whatever food she has with her.
“She will talk to anybody,” McGhee says. “She really seems like she just wants people to enjoy themselves more. It matters to her that she makes people feel like they matter.”
Wherever life takes her, Fine will always maintain her childlike wonder.
“People look up at the sky and are wowed by the bigness of things,” Fine says. “I’m wowed by the smallness of things.”
She sticks out her index finger, examines the ridges on the tip and smiles.
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