A brilliant, bushy-tailed bildungsroman.

During the first four seasons of his life, the titular gray squirrel learns to embrace his “only-ness.”

This illustrated novel begins with Toaff leaping about treetops, excitedly discovering his innate, gray-squirrel abilities. “Sometimes everything was so wonderful that all you could do was whuffle” (a term used abundantly throughout the book). Toaff’s life has begun in a large, multifamily den on a farm, in an upright, dead tree. A violent winter storm forces him to find new lodgings—by himself. He uses knowledge imparted by his elders to forage, evade and/or escape predators, as well as to build himself a new home. There are many false starts in the latter process, but Toaff cheerfully perseveres. Encounters with other animals, especially with a red squirrel named Nilf, lead him to question some of his accumulated gray-squirrel lore and to become a better person—err, squirrel. With the same agility that Toaff displays in scrambling up his favorite hickory tree, the text intertwines the factual with the fanciful. This includes pervasive, gentle humor, such as these gray-squirrel perceptions: The farm’s humans live in a “big white nest” near their “big red nest.” The text also offers reassurance to young readers that squirrels—unlike humans—likely meet with equanimity such happenstances as the sudden loss of a home—or a mother. The tale’s ending is perfect. The pen-and-ink illustrations support the plotline and the text's borderline realism, and they show the human family of three to be white.

A brilliant, bushy-tailed bildungsroman. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6536-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018


The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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