Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scaredy Squirrel - leaping into the unknown (ages 4 - 9)

Great humor often touches something that makes us uncomfortable, or something that we fear. By laughing at another character's fear, we can become a little more comfortable with our own fears. Scaredy Squirrel, by Mélanie Watt, is a hilarious picture book that you'll love reading with your kids. It's all about leaping into the unknown, having the courage to try something different or to explore something new. But most of all, it's a book your kids will ask for again and again because it makes them laugh at a very silly squirrel.
Scaredy Squirrel
by Mélanie Watt
NY: Kids Can Press, 2006
ages 4 - 9
available on Amazon and your local library
Before we begin, a note to all readers from Scaredy Squirrel: you MUST wash your hands with antibacterial soap before opening this book! OK, are you ready?

Scaredy Squirrel is very happy with his life. He lives in a comfortable tree, he has all the nuts he wants, and every day is predictable and safe. Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his tree because "the unknown can be a scary place for a squirrel." Turn the page, and you'll see all the things that Scaredy Squirrel might find in the unknown: green Martians, killer bees, tarantulas, poison ivy, germs and sharks. At this point, kids will start to giggle. I mean, we're all afraid of the unknown, but we know right away that this squirrel is a little crazy!

Mélanie Watt builds the story with perfect pacing, repetition and sight gags. Kids love reading about the emergency kit Scaredy Squirrel has put together, and Scaredy's Squirrel's instructions for what to do in case an emergency (number one: PANIC!). By creating this exaggerated character, and the repetition, Watt uses humor to help kids see that venturing into the unknown can be OK.

When Scaredy Squirrel's emergency kit falls from the tree and he leaps after it, he discovers that he can glide. He's actually a flying squirrel!! He loves the feeling of flying, then lands in a bush and pretends to be dead for two hours (you can never be too safe, in this little guy's opinion). I just love the way that Scaredy Squirrel discovers his own talents by accident, by falling out of his tree - but then he decides he just has to do this every day!

Scaredy Squirrel was the winner of the first Cybils Award for picture books in February 2007. The wonderful MotherReader interviewed author Mélanie Watt for the Cybils Blog. I found this excerpt particularly interesting:
MotherReader: Why did you need to write this book?

Mélanie Watt: I knew for a long time that I wanted to write a book about fearing the unknown. I grew up in a family that was sometimes a little too overly cautious. I had my mind set on exploring this subject and expressing how fear stops us from discovering our talents and capabilities. So a squirrel seemed to be the perfect vehicle for this and the nut tree was a good metaphor to start with. What really brought the story together were the humoristic approach and the exaggeration. Being a graphic designer allowed me to build the story visually with charts, lists and graphics before writing the actual text.
There are now three sequels to the original Scaredy Squirrel, all sure to bring on laughs. But the original is still my favorite. But if you have a little one giving you a hard time at night, be sure to check out Scaredy Squirrel at Night.

Have fun reading this with your children, laughing at this funny little guy, and seeing if they can relate at all to feeling too nervous to jump out of their safe spot.

The review copy came from our home collection (it's been read over and over again). If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.


  1. Scaredy Squirrel is a riot! My kids love him.

  2. My kids love Scaredy--and Melanie Watts other creation, Chester--too. In fact, a few Scaredy Squirrel books came home from the library with us this week. Definite must-reads.