In Uihlein’s (Hello Little Owl, I am Hermit Crab, 2013, etc.) third book in the series, Chipmunk’s forest friends help him find and deal with the animal who has been stealing his store of nuts.
The title might be less mystifying if punctuated as it appears in the text, “‘Hello, Little Owl,’ chipped Chipmunk.” Munk, as he is nicknamed, complains that his hard-won winter’s nut supply is disappearing. Little Owl responds, “Someone is picking on you and I don’t like it!” Upon reading “Cat sleepily nodded agreement,” readers new to the series may fruitlessly look for a cat, missing the caterpillar drawn in the bottom corner. The three friends call the rest of the animals to a meeting. The lovely colored pen-and-ink illustration of the 10 characters, while whimsical, radiates a sense of community. Only Billy Blue Jay seems unconcerned, saying, “I don’t have time to watch what Chipmunk does with his acorns!” That night, Little Owl hides with Munk to see what happens. Sure enough, they catch Billy in the act. Little Owl hoots, “You lied at the meeting! You are the burglar! Shame on you! From now on we will call you ‘BULLY’ Blue Jay and never play with you again!!” While Billy Blue Jay may be a liar and a thief, categorizing him as a bully for the rest of the book is confusing. Billy has never directly taunted Munk, not to mention the fact that, in nature, birds and chipmunks continually compete for food. Billy’s immediate turnaround doesn’t ring true: “He hung his head and said, ‘I promise never to steal again! Will you please give me a second chance?’ ” When the animal friends forgive Billy “just this once,” the author both tells and shows his happiness, declaring Billy “would not make a mistake like that again!” A note explaining the author’s connection with chipmunks may interest some readers, while others will appreciate the nature facts that follow. Discussion questions like “Do you think Billy Blue Jay learned his lesson?” emphasize the storyline’s weakness.
Outside of the misplaced moral about bullying, Uihlein’s expressive art and lively text may heighten children’s appreciation of the natural world.