A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
JANUARY 21:

  • Happy birthday Carol Beach York (Good Charlotte).
  • The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown, is printed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1789.
  • In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all American Vietnam War draft evaders, some of whom had emigrated to Canada. Read Summer’s End by Audrey Couloumbus.
  • It’s National Hugging Day. Read Hug by Jez Alborough, Hug Time by Patrick McDonald, Giant Hug by Sandra Horning, and Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown.

Today has been designated Squirrel Appreciation Day. Like many city dwellers, I don’t appreciate squirrels. My dogs, Lady and Lancelot, basically believe that all squirrels deserve to be driven up trees. The squirrels in my back yard retaliate by making fun of these lumbering, large dogs.

I have liked these bushy-tailed creatures a great deal more since I read Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel, published by Kids Can Press in 2006. As a young author, Mélanie was told to put down on paper what she knew. In her case, she had been plagued by fears since childhood. Hence, she created an alter ego, a small squirrel who lives in a tree and is too afraid to set out from his home.

Even the endpapers of Scaredy Squirrel warn readers to clean their hands with antibacterial soap before opening the book. Scaredy Squirrel has so many things that make him afraid—green Martians, killer bees, and even sharks. He spends time drawing out elaborate exit plans in case of a crisis and maintains a well-stocked emergency kit. Every day he does the same things, at the same time. Of course, a crisis happens, and suddenly all the plans fail to work. When he’s forced to jump from the tree, he discovers that he is a flying squirrel and the pages fold out to show him in flight. Now he can add a little adventure to his days—although he still keeps to a schedule.

On the surface the book allows everyone to laugh at the antics of a small squirrel, trying to keep tragedy at bay. But, of course, human beings are all subject to rational and irrational fears, and in its gentle way Scaredy Squirrel allows children and adult readers to examine their own worst fears. In her author’s notes, Canadian author Mélanie Watts lets people know that she shares a lot of traits with Scaredy Squirrel—she herself is afraid of sharks.

The book naturally lends itself to activities with children. They can draw pictures of what they fear, map out an exit strategy from school or home, or plan an emergency kit for their own needs. Since its publication, children ages three to eight have absolutely loved this title. The book has won awards chosen by children, such as the Red Clover Award selected by the children of Vermont or the Monarch Award by young readers in Illinois. It has several superb sequels, including Scaredy Squirrel at Night and Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party. It is now in development in Canada as a television series.

Even if you don’t want to appreciate squirrels today, you will definitely enjoy reading Scaredy Squirrel. As I look out in my backyard, I can see one of those squirrels taunting my dogs. Maybe we have a different species here; I prefer the Canadian version.

Here’s a page from Scaredy Squirrel:


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Originally posted January 21, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Award Winning, Feelings, Squirrels
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Scaredy Squirrel
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COMMENTS

  1. G.Perry says:

    I loved Scaredy Squirrel!

    I believe this book is light years ahead of many parents in teaching just how normal fear is, while providing a subltle sense of comfort and reason, not to mention hope.

    It is vitally important to teach chidren about emotions and just how human they themselves are, while providing comfort, and teaching the skill of rationality.

    Children are quietly desperate to know that what they feel is normal and that it is just part of developing as a person, so they can understand that they are just like everyone else, not an odd-person-out.

    As Tal Ben-Shahar who teaches Positive Psychology at Harvard says, “Give yourself and others, permission to be human.” (One of his steps in his teaching Happiness 101.)

  2. Alyson says:

    I just love the Scaredy Squirrel Series. I can’t wait until the new book comes out in February though I did get a peak at it when I was at ALA. Thanks for sharing Scaredy Squirrel with your readers.

  3. Vicky says:

    Melanie Watt’s fearless use of white space, coupled with her graphic style is what really makes this book pop. I was especially grateful to see that you brought up how much this book means to child readers, and the kinds of awards that their are that allow them to express their enthusiasm for a text. Scaredy Squirrel is also the winner of the 2008 Shining Willow award, an award given to a Canadian author from children of Saskatchewan.

    I’ve often thought thought this book would be well paired with Emily Gravett’s “Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears.” What is it about rodents psyches that leads them to a life of contemplation of fears?

  4. suzi w. says:

    oh, i will have to look for this one! since my brain always go towards (sometimes unhelpfully) towards bibliotherapy, I think of people I know with OCD and agoraphobia and how this is a book that looks at those fears without being a book we shelve in non-fiction. Non-diadactic is what this book sounds like, from your description. If I get to work today (we have SNOW!) I’ll check our shelves.

    xo,
    Suzi

  5. Bookjeannie says:

    Thank you Anita! And have you read THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS by Adam Rubin? Hilarious! I love quirky books that make me laugh out loud. Every class I read it with had their little fists in the air yelling, “those darn squirrels!” Daniel Salmieri’s illustrations are a hoot, too!

  6. D. Clines says:

    I just love all the Scaredy Squirrel books. The kids at my elementary school love them too. They are rarely on the shelf because they are always checked out. Funny, but with a great message about facing your fears.

    Bookjeannie, I also love Those Darn Squirrels. There is a sequel to that one, too. I think it is called Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door.

    Thanks for the great blog, Anita!!

  7. S. Couture says:

    Anita,
    I love All the Scaredy Squirrel books and so do the kids! They are always asking for them ! Even the older students love them. The teachers use them for interactive read alouids and many fun projects with the book!

  8. Stacy B. says:

    I love the Scaredy Squirrel books and so do my students. They also love the Chester books too.

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