The gray squirrel Jed’s human acquaintance relates this entertaining story of friendship and adventure, beginning with Jed’s narrow escape from a hawk and then continuing with a series of tail-raising escapades.
An introductory author’s note and endnote frame the story as a tale told by the squirrel to the writer. After the hawk snatches Jed, most of his squirrel community gathers for a memorial service. However, his friends TsTs and Chai, sure Jed is alive, bravely follow a trail of “buzzpaths” and “frozen spiderwebs”—utility lines and towers—to find him. The narrator frequently weaves tidbits of natural science, ecology and philosophy, as well as notes about human behavior, into each short, action-packed chapter. Humorous footnotes and direct addresses add to the fun, as in: “To squirrels, ‘Are you nuts?’ is a combination of ‘Have you lost your mind?’ and ‘You remind me of the most wonderful thing I can think of.’ ” Adult readers will recognize traces of Watership Down, Beatrix Potter and even the work of cartoonist Gary Larson, but who knew until this book that red squirrels speak with cockney accents? (Or, more realistically, that squirrel homes are called “dreys”?) Strong characterizations carry readers through the episodic adventure.
With its unswerving inclusion of predators, habitat destruction and territorial conflict, this novel could have grown dark; instead, it is funny and exuberant. (Fantasy. 7-11)