The Last Hazelnut

Barefoot Bks. Aug. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781646860555; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781646860562.
K-Gr 2–Tim, a natty blue squirrel in yellow boots, and Teo, an orange rabbit with superb pattern-mixing skills, share a bowl of hazelnuts that Tim has collected. Small vignettes show time passing as the friends happily converse and the number of nuts in the bowl steadily decreases by two. One nut is left, two hands reach into the bowl—it’s empty! Both friends erupt with anger, accusing the other of selfishness and stomping home in a fit of rage. Both are sleepless overnight, fixating on the perceived betrayal. Readers will wonder what actually happened to the last hazelnut, and will want to go back and look for clues in the illustrations. Is one of the friends lying? The next day, Tim and Teo each reflect in nature and realize that their friendship is worth more than a single hazelnut. They reunite, apologize, and sit down with another bowl of hazelnuts. This time when the moment of truth arrives, they decide to split the last nut—just as a bird swoops in and takes it, which possibly solves the original mystery. Johnson’s illustrations are rendered primarily in earth tones, with lots of equally stylish secondary characters going about their business in the background and an abundance of lush, colorful plant life. Readers will pore over this fully realized world.
VERDICT While stories about conflict and sharing abound, this snazzy offering feels fresh. A solid purchase for libraries.

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