Quill and Quire

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Scaredy Squirrel

by Melanie Watt

This cheerful picture book is for and about the seriously fearful. Scaredy is a squirrel who won’t leave his nut tree because of possible hazards in the unknown, such as killer bees, poison ivy, and sharks. He has organized his days into a comfortable if boring routine of waking, looking at the view, eating a nut, then sleeping again, and has an emergency kit and emergency preparedness plans all ready just in case.

Scaredy’s (mostly irrational) fears are common enough in younger children, and Montreal author-illustrator Mélanie Watt gently teases her squirrel about them, with little jokes that readers can detect if they look carefully at the pictures. The only realistic threat on Scaredy’s list is poison ivy, and that’s what his emergency kit ends up being used for. Meanwhile, the bees that fly by his tree and provoke him into panicky action are drawn with smiling faces, unlike the frowning killer bees of his fantasy. Leaping from his tree to avoid the bees, Scaredy discovers an unexpected gift – he is a flying squirrel! Never one to take advantage of an opportunity, however, he simply builds into his daily routine a short flight, followed by two hours of playing dead, just in case.

Watt’s book is genuinely funny, and its text and pictures work very well together. The style is contemporary, colourful, and cartoon-like, with lists and schedules outlining Scaredy’s cautious approach to life. A fold-out page presents the surprise of his discovery that he can fly (while an insert shows him holding up a score card with points for his athletic feat). Readers of any age will chuckle with recognition at the squirrel’s attempts to control his life. Flying, he briefly feels overjoyed, carefree, and alive, but the implications of how his attitude has limited his life are left to the reader to acknowledge.