This rhyming picture book features young squirrels who learn to save, spend, and give back.
Narrated by a wren and using squirrels as stand-ins for humans, this pedantic rhyming story is transparent in its purpose of teaching children the whys and wherefores of prudent (mostly fiscal) living: care for the world, save, spend a little, and give back to those less fortunate. At face value, it’s a worthy endeavor, and it’s thorough—there’s a backmatter “Squirrel Manifesto Guide for Grown-Ups” that gives caregivers four steps to take to cultivate financial knowledge in children (“Tax a little. Spend a little. Save a little. Give a little”). But it’s all undone by the backmatter author bios, which take up a full page and inform readers (or rather their caregivers) that the authors run a financial services company, and in fact, its logo and that of its partner company grace this page. What could have been a solid, if heavy-handed, story about prudent, thoughtful, and charitable living turns into manipulative product placement, using a children’s story to promote a business. Illustrator Zaboski’s illustrations are colorfully busy but vary in neither palette nor presentation, and readers may tire of cutesy squirrels cavorting long before the story ends. Additionally, an illustration depicting the famous Michelangelo Sistine Chapel image but with squirrels in the role of God and Adam is as irrelevant to the story as it is odd to contemplate.
A worthy message is sullied by blatant commercialism. (Picture book. 5-8)