About the Holiday
Squirrels elicit emotions on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand you can’t help but say “Awww!” when you see their tiny little paws and crafty antics. On the other hand their voracious appetites at bird feeders and penchant for darting into traffic is more likely to make you say “Arrgghhh!” This month is set aside, however, for enjoying the squirrels in your yard, park, or city. And really, don’t they make life just a little more fun?
Girl Versus Squirrel
Written by Hayley Barrett | Illustrated by Renée Andriani
Pearl built three birdhouses and put them in and near the tree in her backyard. One was shaped like a house, one was a tube, and the other was a tea cup atop a tall stand. After filling the house with suet, the tube with seeds, and the teacup with peanuts, Pearl settled in with her binoculars to wait. Soon cardinals, flickers, finches, and chickadees swooped in. But none of them wet for the peanuts.
Happily sitting next to the teacup was a squirrel with a peanut in its paws. Pearl scared the squirrel away and then went to work to win this contest of wits. She used her hockey stick to raise the teacup’s stand higher and “watched, breathless with anticipated success, but was soon disappointed” as the squirrel easily climbed to the top. Pearl added a mop to make the pole even higher.
But still the squirrel had no trouble getting to the top. “The squirrel stared at Pearl and seized an especially plump peanut.” Just then the “pole began to teeter and totter until…It toppled to the ground,” breaking the handle off the teacup. As the squirrel dashed up a nearby oak tree, Pearl shouted, “‘You’re a bird-feeder-crashing, teacup-smashing, peanut-poaching pest!’” A pest Pearl was not about to lose out to.
While Pearl fixed her teacup, she devised a plan. She gathered supplies and started creating. Soon, a “network of obstacles emerged, each more squirrel-challenging than the last.” The squirrel may have been fast and determined, but the course ensured that “teacup triumph will require nerves of squirrely steel,” Pearl fixed her binoculars on the squirrel and waited.
It didn’t take long before the squirrel was headed in the right direction. He scampered over the rope, spun around the big spool, leaped to the swing, and scrambled through the rest of the course. Until… “CRUNCH!” Pearl was astounded. Then she saw the squirrel head for a nest in the oak tree with three baby kits in it. That’s when Pearl realized the squirrel was a mother. “‘I proclaim your victory,’ cheered Pearl, ‘ and I salute you, fearless, fluffy sister!’” Immediately, Pearl wanted to help this family grow and learn. Now her backyard is a birds’… and squirrels’… and contraption-lovers’ paradise.
“Some Squirrely Facts” about our favorite nature nemesis follows the story.
For anyone who has done battle with a squirrel at their birdfeeder, Hayley Barrett’s story is a delight. Her nimble alliterative phrasing and fun-to-read action verbs will make any story time a joy. Add in Pearl’s can-do attitude and the squirrel’s unstoppable energy and you have the makings of an epic battle—one that readers are sure to want to replicate in their own yards. Barrett nails the experimental nature of children’s building projects, a detail that kids will appreciate and that will endear Pearl to them. Barrett’s nod to girl power provides a strong, uplifting ending. Factual information about birds, bird food and squirrel behavior is interwoven organically throughout the story. That and the fascinating back matter make this a terrific book to pair with classroom lessons.
Renée Andriani’s vibrant, action-packed illustrations will wow kids and have them on the edge of their seats for each page turn. Realistic depictions of the cardinals, finches, chickadees, and flickers that swarm Pearl’s bird feeders will entice readers to learn more about these birds. When Pearl raises her teacup feeder higher and higher, Andriani presents clear images of how Pearl tapes the stand, stick, and mop together as well as the crashing result when the squirrel hops on. As Pearl gathers items from her garage and begins building her obstacle course, readers will be in suspense, waiting to see the final result.
Presented in a wild, two-page spread, Andriani’s portrayal of Pearl’s obstacle course rewards readers with bold, expressive typography and images of the squirrel making her way from station to station with style. The final two-page spread of Pearl’s backyard, is a riot of color as feeders, birds, and mama and baby squirrels nosh to their hearts’ content. Kids will want to linger to catch every detail.
Imaginative, humorous, and educational, Girl Versus Squirrel will become a favorite and will inspire kids to create their own obstacle course. The book would also be a high-interest accompaniment to STEM lessons in the classroom and at home. It would make a terrific addition to home, school, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823442515
Discover more about Hayley Barrett and her books on her website.
To learn more about Renée Andriani, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Squirrel Awareness Month Activity
Squirrely Activity Pages
You can join a girl who’s watching squirrels, find a whole squirrel community to color, see a squirrel enjoying a snack, and follow the numbers to discover… with these printable Squirrely Activity Pages
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