cover image No! Said Custard the Squirrel

No! Said Custard the Squirrel

Sergio Ruzzier. Abrams Appleseed, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-5524-8

Peevishly pointing to a ducklike image in a book, a gray rodent-type animal in high-waisted pants confronts the eponymous protagonist. “Custard the Squirrel, aren’t you a duck?” “No,” replies Custard, a yellow figure with an orange bill and feet, who sports a green top and matching cap. As the questioning interlocutor insists on conventional duck behavior (“Custard the Squirrel, will you please quack?”), Custard scans as upbeat but firm, seeing no need to assuage, conform, or explain, and answering each question with a simple “No.” In gentle-hued ink and watercolor art by Ruzzier (Fish and Sun), Custard pilots a jaunty sailboat instead of taking a swim, and gags at drooping weeds before tucking in to a tableful of elaborate desserts. But even Custard has limits, in a late spread repeatedly proclaiming “No!” while turning flip after flip. And that gives rise to one more question—one that reads as earnest and searching: “Custard the Squirrel, do you only answer ‘No’?” The query elicits a gladly resounding affirmation of self that leads to big grins on both sides in this cleverly rendered, accessibly philosophical take on confronting bias, labels, and assumptions. Ages 3–6. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)