In this French-Canadian import, when a mysterious pod appears on the branch outside his home, a squirrel must decide the limits of his responsibility for the creature within.
At first, Otto steps over the sphere. Even when it hatches and a white fur ball calls him “Mommy,” the homeowner rushes inside: “Otto wasn’t curious, but he was cautious.” Eventually relenting, he offers the baby a spot in his hammock. Each day, the critter grows at an alarming rate, eating hazelnuts, occupying more sleeping space, and inadvertently breaking furniture. All the while, the bushy-tailed protagonist searches for the mother, to no avail. Conflicted, but cramped, Otto stomps off, ignoring his own advice to be watchful of the eagle. In the nick of time, he is rescued from menacing talons, and Otto decides that renovations to expand his property are in order. Convincing dialogue provides the emotional arc, while Dubuc’s pencil-and-watercolor scenes depict the cozy woodland life that animal lovers fantasize about. Close-ups reveal curtains at the home’s window and a lantern illuminating the entrance; Pio, as the creature calls himself, prepares a soothing vegetable stew and strings colorful yard decorations to please his hardworking host. Longer views show the bulk of the tree and the starlit sky beyond.
The pacing and feelings ring true in this heartwarming depiction of someone accustomed to being the center of his universe but who responds to the impulse of hospitality and friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)