CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006
Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. He is afraid of the outside world including fears of: tarantulas, killer bees, and Martians, etc. Nevertheless, he prepares for the eventuality of danger by building an emergency kit filled with such things as a parachute, calamine lotion, sardines and a hard hat. Scaredy Squirrel lives a very scheduled life, and every day follows the same timetable. One day, a killer bee flies by Scaredy Squirrel, and, in his panic, he jumps from the tree without first donning his parachute. To his surprise, he learns he is a flying squirrel, a discovery which leads to a new outlook and daily routine.
On the front inside panel of the dust jacket, there is the story "In a Nutshell," a synopsis/explanation of the story. Scaredy asks these questions: Will I survive this ordeal? Will I undergo a life-changing experience? Will I discover my true inner self?
The moral of this story, which is something like - you never know what you might learn until you try - is a perfect message for the younger set.
Despite the publisher’s recommendation of “for all ages,” judging from the picture book format and the illustrations, this book would appear to be aimed at the standard picture book audience of children ages 3 -7. However, the humour, language, and some of the diagrams (as opposed to the illustrations) are aimed at a much older audience. Many of the jokes needed explaining to my test audience of my 4-year-old and 7-year-old. The layout of the daily routine via a clock face with a time on it, e.g. 6:45, and the accompanying text, "wake up," was completely lost on the 4-year-old, and the 7-year-old needed the humour of the timetable explained - but reading the clock faces was a good educational tool. The 7-year-old succeeded at easily reading the text but didn't understand the underlying humour in, for example, Scaredy's "Notes to self" in the Exit Plan, the daily routine and the "Dramatization" caption with the emergency gear illustration. On the other hand, the arrival of the killer bee is easily understood, and the text and illustrations combine to make the most memorable moment in the book.
The cartoon style illustrations are bright and simple, and we become quite attached to our hero through his characterization in the pictures.
I am really not sure who the audience is for this title. There is a good message for all and lots of humour for the adult reader. Kids Can Press has sold the rights of Scaredy Squirrel to Bayard Editions in France, and so there is international interest in this title. I think there is better material out there to illustrate this message although there are some uses for this title in teaching time, particularly in the era of digital timepieces.
Recommended with reservations.
Ruth Scales McMahon, of Lethbridge, AB, is a professional children's librarian, the co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Book Award and the mother of two young children.
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