A squirrel who loves peaches goes up against a gun-toting farmer in this book for early readers.
Farmer Fred has no family, but he does have “Tree,” which he protects behind a wall with a rifle. Tree’s fruit is enormously precious to him: “Tasting a peach just plucked off the branch was as close to eating heaven as you could get.” But no one, other than Fred or the judges at the county fair, has ever eaten them. Squirrel, too, adores peaches; indeed, they’re his passion. When Squirrel spots Tree, he becomes determined to get over the wall. Though other squirrels laugh at him, his hard work making a ladder pays off, and finally he tastes Tree’s fruit, which is “everything Squirrel had dreamed of and hoped for his whole life.” After Farmer Fred catches him, he realizes that the animal must appreciate peaches as much as he does, and he offers to share the fruit if Squirrel will help with guard duty. The two bond over their shared life’s work, but when Girl Squirrel parachutes over the wall next summer, Squirrel finds himself protecting her. Farmer Fred comes to a realization: “Eating peaches, together with Squirrel, made them even sweeter.” He takes down the wall and invites all the squirrels to share the delicious fruit. In this story about determination, following one’s passion, and the joy of sharing, Schaufeld (Larry and Bob, 2016, etc.) avoids obvious didacticism, instead focusing on the sweetness of peaches and companionship as well as the satisfaction of working for a goal. Fred finds real happiness in expanding his idea of family; both man and squirrel convincingly discover that passion shouldn’t become obsession. One quibble: The name “Girl Squirrel” assumes that male is the default. Returning collaborator Schwarz paints with pleasingly rich, saturated hues; the peaches look absolutely luscious, as they should. His realistic, varied illustrations capture expression and drama well, such as Girl Squirrel’s look of determination as she broaches Tree’s enclosure and Fred’s smile as he takes down the wall.
A sweet but never cutesy story with delightful illustrations.