cover image Ol’ Mama Squirrel

Ol’ Mama Squirrel

David Ezra Stein. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25672-1

As he did in Interrupting Chicken and Pouch!, Stein again shows his skill at finding laughs in commonplace situations. Ol’ Mama Squirrel keeps her squirrel children safe from a variety of intruders (cats, owls, repairmen) with a combination of noise, bluff, and bloody-minded indignation. When a dog threatens, she “clattered in the high branches. chook chook chook! She chattered in the low branches. chook chook chook! She scrabbled right side up and upside down while she scolded that dog.” Stein’s all-too-real vignettes of the angry squirrel’s arched eyebrows and waving fists are funny all by themselves, and when a sneering grizzly bear shows up and the suspense builds, Ol’ Mama Squirrel doesn’t flinch. The book gallops along without pausing for breath, and there’s something deeply gratifying about the story of a mother whose perfect confidence assures that her children will always be safe. Yet Stein makes it possible to sympathize with the victims, too: “They must put crazy powder in the nuts around here!” says the dog she’s chased off. A rousing and rowdy readaloud. Ages 3–5. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Mar.)