A young squirrel comes of age in this children’s book that’s part story and part nature lesson.
Friend (Icy the Iceberg, 2017) introduces readers to a family of squirrels that lives near a large cabin. The one most eager to leave the nest is Squirrelly. He helps his father build a new nest for their family, and most impressively, becomes a shrewd hunter of the cabin’s many bird feeders. Despite the cabin owner’s attempts to deter the squirrels, Squirrelly perseveres, often finding enough food to feed his clan through the winter. If only the same talents were bestowed upon his brother Sluggo, who ignores his father’s lessons and advice until it’s too late. Eventually, Squirrelly moves out of the comfort of his parents’ nest into his own tree, and soon after becomes smitten with Starlett. From there, it’s a story of boy meets girl (squirrel meets squirrel?) as Squirrelly shares his food and his gathering practices with Starlett, asks her to marry him (over corn and acorns, of course), and starts his own family. Not even a rough thunderstorm can deter Squirrelly from providing Starlett and their soon-to-be brood with the safety and warmth of his own childhood. Accompanied by Makis’ (Icy the Iceberg, 2017) simple, colorful images, this book oscillates awkwardly between storytelling and science lesson, with pages devoted to the structure of certain tree nuts and technical descriptions of bird feeders. There’s some stiff language not usually found in children’s stories (“Due to the fact”; “The final outcome”), which isn’t helped by the italicized vocabulary words sprinkled throughout the tale. Despite this, Squirrelly is a good-hearted character who readers can follow from impatient child to caring adult. Kids who like to imagine the inner lives of squirrels should especially appreciate the anthropomorphic traits of Squirrelly, Starlett, and their families, from their described emotions to their illustrated homes. The moral of the story is hammered home in the final chapter (“An Uncertain Future”) that leaves no guesswork in what message the author wants to impart to children.
A straightforward, vocabulary-rich portrait of a squirrel and his family.