cover image Scaredy Squirrel

Scaredy Squirrel

Melanie Watt, . . Kids Can, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-55337-959-1

It's an indication of how well Watt (Leon the Chameleon ) knows her helicopter-parented audience that she's able to turn the phrase "antibacterial soap" into a bona fide punchline. Fearing attack by Martians, sharks, poison ivy, killer bees, tarantulas and/or germs, Scaredy Squirrel decides "he'd rather stay in his safe and familiar tree than risk venturing out into the unknown." But just in case something goes awry, this most anxious rodent also has an extensive emergency kit that includes sardines (to distract the sharks), the aforementioned antibacterial soap and a parachute. Then one day, Scaredy's unvarying and admittedly boring routine is thrown for a loop (it's the emergency kit's fault), and he discovers he's a flying squirrel—an epiphany so momentous that it garners the book's only gatefold spread. Will Scaredy's life be changed forever now that new vistas have opened up to him? Well, sort of. Watt largely dispenses with conventional visual storytelling; instead, she tells the hero's story through a series of boldly graphic and endearingly goofy charts and diagrams (one outlines the anxious rodent's "top secret," four-option plan for exiting the tree in case of emergency). Funny in their own right, the pages also spoof all the sincerely inane worksheets that are the staple of elementary school homework. Youngsters will go nuts over this one. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)