Viking. Feb. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593114049.
PreS-Gr 2–Quiet, tea-loving Squirrel has a new neighbor. He’s a bear, and Squirrel, who narrates in the first person, and wears a charming hat and lovely apron, can tell just by looking at him that he’s trouble. Bears are wild animals and she and Chamomile, her sweet, mouselike cat (or a mouse that meows), have seen his type before. Squirrel spends most of the story nursing her misconceptions about her neighbor, whom readers will clearly infer from the pictures is a clumsy, loud, cookie-loving, honey-collecting, gentle soul. Squirrel’s prejudice comes to a head when she barges into Bear’s home wielding a teapot expecting to have to rescue Chamomile from Bear’s nefarious ways. Instead, she finds Chamomile helping Bear knit a scarf, which forces Squirrel to realize that Bear’s not the trouble—Squirrel is. Bear is overly generous in forgiving Squirrel who doesn’t actually apologize, but in the end “tea and cookies are the perfect pair...[each makes] the other better.” Battersby’s text flows well and is a pleasure to read, and only tells part of the story. The rest appears in a the clever illustrations, a mix of pencil, collage, photography. and digital media. For example, as Squirrel enumerates Bear’s wild traits of terrible teeth, knifelike claws and horrifying hunger, readers see bear brushing his teeth, filing his nails while wearing bunny slippers, and eating cookies. Plenty of amusing bits and Chamomile’s subtle expressions round out the story.
VERDICT An amusing tale about stereotypes and prejudice, this is a great teaching moment clothed in an outstanding read-aloud.–
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