Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
Stein’s latest picture book is an uproarious read aloud and will be a welcome addition to any storytime. Mama Squirrel knows that all sorts of creatures want to eat her baby squirrels, but she won’t let that happen. She scolds all sorts of creatures away with her fierce “Chook, chook, chook!” Cats, dogs, owls, even humans scatter at her determination to protect her babies. Until one day when a bear comes to her tree. Mama Squirrel tries scolding, she tries throwing nuts, but the bear stays and then says that he will eat her entire tree! Mama Squirrel has one last trick though, and it’s an amazing one!
This book is one amazing read aloud. It is designed specifically to be shared aloud and I think will shine with a good sized group in particular. The scolding noise of the mother squirrel will have everyone “chook, chook chooking” along with her. The result will be one of my favorite sorts of story times: loud shared love of a story.
Stein’s art will work well with a group too. Her fierce defense of her babies projects straight from the page from her lowered brows and the set of her entire body. The illustrations have a rough edge to them that adds to their appeal.
Get this into your pile of books to share at your next story time, or keep it stored like fall nuts for the next time you need a great read aloud. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.
The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont
The chickens on the farm have built a wall but no one else is quite sure why. It started when the hedgehog suddenly appeared in the middle of the farm. The chickens were all very concerned about this strange new animal that quickly curled itself into a prickly ball. But most alarming was when it had disappeared the next morning. Perhaps it was after the chicks and eggs! None were missing, but that didn’t stop the hens from accusing the hedgehog of eating their worms. The rooster decided that they could not stand by and have this continue happening, so they leapt into action and built a wall. It was not just a small wall, but one that grew so high that one could not see where it ended in the sky. Can this wall save the chickens? And what is it saving them from exactly?
Dumont tells a story about flighty chickens who jump to absurd conclusions immediately about a foreign creature. The hens are frantic in their reactions, going to such lengths to protect themselves from nothing at all. Readers will see parallels between gated communities and the chickens’ wall as well as the fast judgments made about people who are different from ourselves. This would serve as a very nice book to introduce for discussions about diversity and community.
Dumont’s illustrations have a wonderful silliness to them. The chickens are pop-eyed and always moving quickly. The hedgehog is still, low and quiet. The two set each other off nicely in both the illustrations and the storyline.
Translated from the original French, this book has a universal appeal and also a clever quirkiness that adds charm. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.