It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec

It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec (9781525305474)

A squirrel shares his adoration for his tree in this picture book. But then he gets paranoid, wondering what would happen if someone else thought it was actually THEIR tree! Or if his pinecones were their pinecones! So the squirrel decides to make sure that everyone knows it’s his tree. Perhaps a gate or a wall? A wall so long you can’t walk around it! Then the wall could end in another wall, surrounding the tree and keeping everyone else out. But wait, what’s on the other side of the wall? It could be a better pinecone, a bigger one, or even a better tree!

A master author/illustrator gives us a picture book about the fear of missing out as well as paranoia about others and a fear of them. This book runs with that, showing the wild result when it is taken to its extreme. The use of a jittery squirrel is just right, tending his pinecones, protecting his property, frantic with worry and stress. It’s a book for our times, speaking to all of the elements that create a similar reaction in ourselves and how we protect our own trees and pinecones.

The art is done in bright yellows and oranges, creating a real energy on the page and strengthening the tension the squirrel is experiencing. His facial expression is almost always alarmed, ears stretched high and eyes wide. He almost darts across the page.

Don’t miss out on this one! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

Cover image of Donut Feed the Squirrels

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song (9781984895837)

Norma and Belly are squirrels who live in a large tree together. When Norma tries to make pancakes for breakfast, she burns them so badly that not even Belly can eat them. Then they smell something even sweeter coming from a food truck nearby: donuts! They try collecting nuts to trade for a donut, but the man in the truck squirts them with water instead. It’s time for a cunning plan that will need bravery, dexterity, cooking skills and a getaway car! They leave a real mess behind, but also one great idea that inspires a new donut flavor: sweet chestnut.

This graphic novel for elementary-aged readers is a real treat! The entire story is told in dialogue that is minimal and full of silliness. This creates a fast read, speedy and racing ahead of the reader, keeping on great pun in front. The book is full of squirrel ingenuity too and a sense that great ideas can come from anywhere, as well as a skilled getaway driver.

Screamingly funny at times and wildly silly, this graphic novel’s illustrations use white space cleverly. The expressions on the squirrels’ faces are marvelously emotive, their ears and eyebrows moving around, their mouths often open in surprise, and their eyes always thinking of something new to do.

Nutty and sweet, this is a marvelous read sure to appeal to those who love furry critters with their donuts. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Graphic.

Girl Versus Squirrel by Hayley Barrett

Girl Versus Squirrel by Hayley Barrett

Girl Versus Squirrel by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Renee Andriani (9780823442515)

Pearl built three bird feeders for her backyard. She filled one with suet, one with seeds, and the third with nuts. But no birds wanted the nuts! Instead, she attracted a squirrel. The squirrel took all the nuts. Peal extended the pole for the feeder, but the squirrel just ran right up it. Then the feeder fell to the ground and broke. But Peal had a new plan, a network of obstacles to keep the squirrel at bay. But that too didn’t work as the squirrel bested each obstacle with ease. Pearl was very impressed and noticed that this was a mother squirrel caring for her kits. Now Pearl has a backyard of bird feeders plus one amazing squirrel obstacle course!

Playful in tone, this picture book shows the power and potential of invention even if it ends up being foiled by a squirrel. Children will love seeing a girl who invents things do something as dynamic and interesting as a squirrel obstacle course. Even better, the course elements make sense as objects you would find in a garage and repurpose.

The art is simple and inviting, showing both the serene backyard of Pearl’s home and also the wild antics of the squirrel. Pearl’s tenacity and trying to beat the squirrel is shown in the various ways she tries to keep the nuts out the the squirrel’s reach, wiggling and eventually toppling over.

This picture book takes nature plus STEM and invents something fresh. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.

Review: Otto and Pio by Marianne Dubuc

Otto and Pio by Marianne Dubuc

Otto and Pio by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897604)

Otto the squirrel happily lives alone in the biggest tree a very old forest. One morning, he discovers a strange green ball outside his door. He steps over it and ignores it, but later the ball cracks open and a very furry creature emerges. The creature calls Otto “Mommy” and Otto decides to continue to leave the creature outside as night falls. But then later, he reconsiders and invites the small creature in. The creature says “Pio!” so that becomes his name. Pio begins to grow, doubling in size every night while he sleeps. Otto tries in vain to find Pio’s mother, but none of his neighbors know anything. Pio continues to grow as Otto tries different ways to find his mother: posters and visiting other trees. Pio takes care of the house while he is gone, making soup, sweeping and decorating. When Pio is too big to stay in Otto’s house anymore, Otto knows something must be done. So once again he heads out to try to find a solution. He is so distracted, he puts himself in danger. Perhaps one huge furry monster could be a help?

First published in Canada in French, this picture book is another charmer from Dubuc. She has a way of capturing changing deep emotions and emerging friendships that is gentle and filled with empathy. Here, Otto is often frustrated with being burdened with Pio, though Pio works hard to make life good for both of them. As Otto tries to get rid of Pio, his anger grows but then is refreshingly resolved when he understands what a loss Pio would be. The book builds to that new understanding, steadily increasing the pressure on the small squirrel.

Dubuc’s illustrations are very effective. She creates a grand tree for the pair to live in, huge and leafy. The prickly green ball that Pio emerges from is completely alien, and Pio himself looks rather like a very small abominable snowman with his white fur and rosy cheeks. Otto himself is busy and rushing, often avoiding really thinking about how he feels.

Another great read from Dubuc, this one is all about unlikely friendships and family members. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Princeton Architectural Press.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith (9781626725362, Amazon, GoodReads)

On a sunny day, all of the creatures are having a perfect day. Cat can feel the sun on her back as she walks in the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the cool water in his wading pool. Bert, a little boy, fills the birdfeeder and Chickadee enjoys the seeds. Down below, Squirrel is trying to reach the birdfeeder and Bert gives him corn to enjoy. Everyone is having a perfect day. Until Bear arrives.

This book is incredibly simple and exceedingly perfect itself. Smith uses only a few short sentences to tell the story. Repetition is used to keep the book focused and also to make it nicely accessible to even the smallest children. There is a lovely quiet to the book, a joy in the simple and everyday that then becomes something surprising and entirely unusual in the end.

I love that the cover has the bear on it, foreshadowing the twist for little children. The illustrations are done in mixed media that is deeply textured and warm. One can almost pet the cat on the page, feel the cool water in the pool, and run fingers over the cob of corn. It adds to the simple delights of the book immensely.

Perfection to share with toddlers and preschoolers, expect this one to become a favorite. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson

Detective Gordon the First Case by Ulf Nilsson

Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee (InfoSoup)

When a squirrel discovers that some of his nuts are missing one winter night, he heads straight to the police station where Detective Gordon, Chief of Police, can help him. But when he gets there, no one seems to be around until he finds the great detective fast asleep on his paperwork with cake crumbs all around. Once awoken though, Detective Gordon heads out to help solve the crime. But it’s a very cold night and Detective Gordon can’t climb to the hole in the tree to see the crime scene. When he stands watch, he manages to freeze solid. That’s when a little mouse steals one nut from the tree and ends up helping Gordon back to his warm police station. The little mouse is soon named Buffy and settles into the police station as an assistant to Gordon. She can scramble up trees and seems to have a knack for crime solving too. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all accompanied with lots of warmth, tea and cakes. But who is stealing the nuts? Will they strike again? And how can one very young mouse and one old toad figure it all out?

Translated from the original Swedish, this book is a toasty little joy. It has gorgeous elements to it, filled with small touches that bring it entirely to life. From the various cakes for each time of day and the delight at discovering each new flavor to the pleasure both Buffy and Gordon get from stamping each document when its completed, this book is perfect for quiet and cozy crime fighters and detectives. The mystery is just right for small children and the cozy nature of the story makes this an idea bedtime read. The descriptions are vivid, enhancing the strong feeling of a woodsy community as a whole.

Spee’s illustrations add to the snug feeling of the story. She creates fires that glow with a halo of warmth, cakes that line up with plenty for everyone, and beds that are stacked with eiderdown. It is all very domestic and wonderful and also has a little humor mixed in, just like the story itself. The full-color illustrations make this a perfect book to move young readers and listeners to longer books.

A pleasure of a book, this cozy mystery for children is clearly European in origin which adds to the fun. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

Review: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

flora and ulysses

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic who hated romance but loved comic books.  It was the sound of the new vacuum cleaner that interrupted her superhero reading and she made it to the window in time to see her mother swept right off her feet by the power of the vacuum cleaner.  Then the vacuum headed straight for a squirrel.  The squirrel didn’t see it coming, but Flora did and she raced down to see if he could be saved.  The squirrel survived, a lot more bald than he had been, and was now named Ulysses.  Flora knew just what to do, since she spent a lot of time also reading the comic Terrible Things Can Happen to You!  This new friendship between girl and squirrel was made even more special by the superhero powers that Ulysses developed after his accident.  But life is not simple for a superhero squirrel and his human sidekick as they quickly find out.

DiCamillo has created yet another incredible read.  She manages to write such very different and distinct books from one another, making each one a delight and a surprise to pick up and open.  Here she manages to create a superhero book that will appeal to both fans of comics and non-fans.  I personally appreciate a book that has a female protagonist who loves comics.  The addition of a furry creature as a main character is also wonderful.  Ulysses manages to be both a full-fledged character but also remain primarily an animal.  All of this speaks to the skill of the writer and her ability to create honest characters even from absurd and hilarious situations.

Interspersed throughout the book are comic panels that tell some of the story.  The book begins with one of these introducing the vacuum cleaner and Flora’s parents.  Done in black and white, the comic panels are very funny and add just the right tribute to comics.

A great read-aloud, this unlikely superhero pair are sure to fly off the shelves.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt

scaredy squirrel goes camping

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel is back!  This time he wants to stay far away from camping outside, much happier to watch a TV show ABOUT camping.  Unfortunately though, he needs to plug his TV in for it to work.  So he has to find an electrical outlet which means heading outside and into the campground.  As always, Scaredy plans his trip carefully.  He lists what he is scared of, packs important survival supplies, picks out a wilderness outfit to keep himself safe from things like nasty odors and bugs, and has a map of his mission timed to the minute.  But things do not go as planned, showing Scaredy that sometimes it’s not about the plan itself but the journey on which it takes you.

Watt has a wonderful comedic timing that she displays in all of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books.  It is all about those moments of hesitation that make the humor all the more funny.  Scaredy is a great character with his obsessive planning and worrying.  Many children will see themselves in Scaredy and also be able to see the humor as well.  As always, the illustrations are clear, clean and add to the fun.

Another great book in a strong series, this one is perfectly timed for spring and summer camp outs.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Review: Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein

ol mama squirrel

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.