Tuesday, September 09, 2008


THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS! by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Clarion)
Old Man Fookwire was so old that when he sneezed, dust came out. He was also a grump. He hated pie. He hated puppies. The only thing he liked was birds.

After setting out bird-feeders, he is chagrined to find them barraged by squirrels, and not just any squirrels, but squirrels who are good at math, can build box kites, can launch themselves to avoid lasers and swing on spring-loaded trapeze (helmets on) when necessary. Realizing that they have gone over Fookwire's line, the squirrels try to make amends. If Fookwire can't beat 'em, will he join 'em? Ahh, who could resist? We know we are in for a hilarity even from the dedication page ("To my father, for his love of backyard bird-watching and Breakstone dairy products, and to my mother, who sleeps like a horse"), and, as is the mark of truly great humor, we sense that it is coming from a very real place. Sparse, stylized drawings are modern and full of personality. See if you can keep a straight face as the squirrels wear disguises, or Fookwire shakes his "old man fist" over a bowl of cottage cheese (Breakstone's, of course). Silly Chicks, are you on this? Besides bearing some resemblance to the work of (dare I say it?) the late great James Marshall, the story makes for a nice fall man vs.nature-themed counterpart to Candace Fleming's springy MUNCHA! MUNCHA! MUNCHA!. Mix with Melanie Watts' SCARDEY SQUIRREL for more smiles, plus a dash of comparative non-fiction with Lois Ehlert's NUTS TO YOU! or Brian Wildsmith's wonderful SQUIRRELS for a storytime that will leave listeners bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and most importantly, laughing out loud. A children's book debut worth going nuts about. (5 and up)

Also of interest:
More fun with rodents!
OBI, GERBIL ON THE LOOSE by Michael Delaney (Dutton) Left with an irresponsible neighbor, a little gerbil named for a favorite Star Wars character aims to survive. May the force be with him! This book has many strong points: well developed characters (grouchy dog, nefarious tarantula, snake with an inferiority complex), a believable and steady gerbil's-eye point of view, and enough contemporary allusions to really engage a modern audience. Spunky and sparkling, it will be a hit with fans of Betty Birney's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY series (favorite line: "I'll never squeak to her again!"), and like Birney's books, it makes for a stellar chapter-book read-aloud for primary grades. (7 and up)

A BRAND NEW DAY WITH MOUSE AND MOLE by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin) After moths eat holes in his clothes, Mole finds it hard to find threads that will help him to be be cool and groovy. Sample exchange with friend mouse who is looking through shopping bag: "I thought you didn't like buttons?" "It's a brand new day!" declared Mole. "I am trying something--different!" "Mouse pulled out the green pants. "Don't you have some like this?" "My old pants are brown," huffed Mole. "Green pants are--new!" Well, of course we can expect that a mole might look like he gets dressed in the dark, but he manages to set a few trends among his woodland fashion police all the same. A funny, realistic and highly readable friendship story with the kind of problem-solving that is always in vogue. (5 and up)

OH, THEODORE! GUINEA PIG POEMS by Susan Katz, illustrated by Stacey Schuett (Clarion) "Theodore stretches/his hind legs./Hello, morning./Theodore gnaws/the edge of his cage./Hello home. /Theodore sees me/coming close./Goodbye, scary giant." In the spirit of Kristine O'Connell George's LITTLE DOG POEMS, observational free verse and endearing artwork captures the comings and goings of a furry family friend. When Theodore goes missing, it adds some drama and arc to the collection. If you have a guinea pig as a class pet, you know you need this! (5 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esme stuff at www.planetesme.com.


McDonnellDoodles said...

One of our favorite past times is watching the devious squirrels outsmart our "squirrel proof" bird feeder. I'll have to check this out. Another funny rodent book is "The Great Fuzz Frenzy." Have you heard of it? A fuzzy yellow tennis ball lands in a prairie dog hole, and the bright yellow fuzz becomes highly coveted by one and all. Hilarious illustrations! Keep up the good work. Love your blog.

HMacNYC said...

This book just won the Borders Original Voices Award, which celebrates new authors and illustrators who have showed promise in their early work. It's a great one for teaching children acceptance and understanding.


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