Monday, September 19, 2011

SCAREDY SQUIRREL




Each day this week, I am featuring a picture book by Canadian writer and illustrator Mélanie Watt. Her books entertain readers in ways that make them laugh, deal with worries and think about differences. Moreover, her characters are truly memorable, from Leon the Chameleon and Scaredy Squirrel to Augustine and Chester. Watt even becomes a character in the Chester books and you the reader enter the fray in You’re Finally Here. It is exciting to follow Watt’s expanding book collection, with other fresh creations yet to come!



By Mélanie Watt


(Kids Can Press, 2006)


This book is always a crowd pleaser. I’ve read it one-on-one and to whole classes, from grade one to grade seven. It is no surprise that the goofily endearing, anxious, OCD-laden Scaredy Squirrel now stars in a series of books for kids.

We get a sense of the main character immediately upon opening the book. There, amid a pattern of acorns, is a sticker: “WARNING! Scaredy Squirrel insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.” I have actually declared, “Oops, I forgot” and then gotten up to scrub in the sink before carrying on. This instantly gets the audience’s attention. This story will be different. (I’m thinking of reading the book while donning a pair of surgical gloves next time. Scaredy will be most pleased.)

Scaredy Squirrel fears the unknown so he spends all his time in the same tree, following the same ho-hum routine every day. He has real fears of tarantulas, poison ivy, green Martians, killer bees, germs and sharks. These things lurk just beyond the tree, right?

Because the fears are so great and so imminent, Scaredy creates an emergency kit and several exit plans if, and only if, escape is absolutely necessary. Naturally, the day comes when kit and plans must be put into action. And, of course, nothing goes as planned.

Scaredy Squirrel is a clever, breezy read. Watt’s illustrations are the type of bright, cutesy figures that adorn fashionable clothing and nurseries for toddlers (and I mean that as a positive). The layout of pages is equally engaging. Watt presents Scaredy’s daily routine agenda style in a series of eight frames across two pages, little clocks drawn beside each event. She presents lists with visuals accompanying the words. As well, Watt draws Scaredy’s movement in the tree and beyond in lively images across two-page spreads.

I am certain that once you discover Scaredy Squirrel you will look for excuses to read this book to kids and adults, known and, although potentially scary, unknown.

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