When young Nutley’s parents are attacked and killed by the violent members of an invading “inferior race” living nearby, Nutley must leave his babyhood home and learn to make it on his own.
Nutley is a red squirrel, while the assailants are gray squirrels—brutish, feisty and larger than red squirrels. His escape leads him to refuge in the town dump, where he encounters rats and sea gulls and negotiates several brushes with death while hanging on to his innate kindness. Violence and death, and the threat of both, are constants in the form of aggressive gray squirrels, nighttime predators and the swift-moving People Carriers (which roll over and crunch a gray squirrel or two at one point). Nutley longs to be Dangerous, as he characterizes the gray squirrels, yet at nearly every turn, another quality is demanded of him—something that one of his new friends calls courage. Conversational, nature-oriented sections titled “This you should know” address readers before each chapter. Monroe’s black-and-white drawings help to make this small world familiar, while Yolen charmingly creates a believable interior life for Nutley, complete with squirrel appetites and the worries of a youngster just a bit unready for survival.
Though there’s a suggestion the story is meant as fable, Nutley’s adventure stands alone as a satisfying animal fantasy. (Fiction. 8-11)