Told in zappai (similar to haiku), this picture book celebrates an impish trick played by two orange chipmunks on a purple cat.
Less formal and technical than haiku, zappai also has 17 syllables in lines of five, seven, and five syllables but is appropriate for amusing verse. Orange chipmunk companions Sako and Suki live in Chipmunk Run, where they scamper about searching for food—but uh-oh. “Beware of the cat / Big Purple Fuji Mama— / She’s out for a meal!” The friends chip-chip a danger alert and run for their lives as the formidable feline pounces. They make it to their den, hugging each other, resting, and making a plan. With Fuji Mama now sleeping (and dreaming of chipmunks), Sako and Suki sprint past dangers and temptations to the field where catnip grows. Gathering some, they drop stinky leaves by the sleeping cat, who wakes “Mewing and purring / Drooling all over the place / Totally clueless.” The friends laugh at her (from a safe distance, of course)—until next time. Balsama (I Wish You Angels, 2009, etc.) packs a lot of entertainment and real emotion into these short but effective verses, which make good use of the zappai structure. The story is backed with her evocative, painterly illustrations in shimmeringly vivid, varying brush strokes. She skillfully captures the personalities of her animals: the chipmunks’ fear and tenderness for each other, a bullfrog’s mighty leap, and Fuji Mama’s silliness when high on catnip.
A funny, delightful, beautiful, and triumphant tale of animal friendship.