As a result of mistaken identity, the animals of the forest deal with a smelly mishap.
Legend has it that “once in a hundred years,” the King of the Forest, a chimeralike creature “crowned with leaves” appears. Longing to see this figure, Mr. Squirrel misidentifies a mutt with leafy branches stuck in his collar as the king. The forest animals diligently abide by the “king’s” wisdom but are confused with his decree to “leave their scent wherever they lived.” They all obey, and quickly “the whole forest stank to high heaven!” The animals seek refuge on a small island in the middle of the lake “where the wisdom of the king was still unknown.” Thankfully, the rain comes, and the smell is washed away. Readers have little explanation for the setup, dropping into an exposition of the legend via a yogic billy goat. Meschenmoser undoes the initial solemnity of the story with several spreads in which Mr. Squirrel and his hedgehog friend dodge various animals’ catapulting feces. The rough lines of the muted graphite-and–colored-pencil illustrations give layered textures to the creatures and the natural environment, a style that’s interrupted by a few spreads of richly colored paintings for the legend of the king. Perhaps readers of the other Mr. Squirrel books (It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel, 2018, etc.), also translated from German, will adapt better to the tonal changes of this lengthy tale.
The majestic setup and the ensuing scatological humor make strange narrative bedfellows. (Picture book. 5-8)