MTYT: Squirrel’s Family Tree

By Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA, and Kathleen Crawford-Mckinney, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Trees. They make our world more beautiful and they provide food and shelter for wildlife and keep the soil, water and air clean for us. They decorate front and back yards across North America. Their wood is used for paper and lumber. Wooded areas are preserved for us to hike and enjoy nature. Trees are a necessity and are the theme of this month’s My Take/Your Take. Learn about all of the new children’s books around trees through the perspectives of Deanna Day and Kathleen Crawford-McKinney.

MTYT Squirrels Family Tree

KATHLEEN: I am amazed with the amount of information Beth Ferry provides about squirrels’ habitats, oak trees, and seasonal changes over time for young readers in this fact–filled picture book. In the “Nutty Facts” (the backmatter) children will learn more information about the relationship between squirrels and oak trees. Did you know that one squirrel can “create several thousand caches of food each season” by “squirreling” away food for winter? Squirrels only recover about 26% of those nuts; the other 74% may turn into trees. I know this because I am constantly pulling out tree saplings in my gardens each year! This could be why squirrels get a bad reputation because they are constantly “squirreling away” their food in people’s gardens. But throughout this book we see a strong symbiotic relationship that benefits the oak trees and squirrels. So many facts to learn about squirrels and oak trees.

I am drawn to the soft illustrations of A.N. Kang and how she portrays change over time through the daily happenings of a squirrel’s life. She captures the silliness of the squirrel who is preparing for winter in the chunky cheeks by “gobbling quite a lot.”

The end papers greet you with a plethora of squirrels digging and eating acorns. Who could not love these little creatures? Kang’s illustrations make me think of Beatrix Potter’s style in that they portray a sweetness in the creatures she draws.

DEANNA: Until reading this picturebook I had no idea that squirrels are the inadvertent heroes of forest restoration. In all honesty squirrels drive me crazy because they dig up my yard, pull the bark off my trees and tease my Springer Spaniel, Ginger, who spends most of the day on squirrel patrol by lying in front of the glass slider. Learning about the acorn cycle, from seed to oak tree to seed again, helped me appreciate squirrels and what they do for our environment. It was pretty depressing to read in the back that only one in 10,000 acorns becomes a mature oak tree though.

This book is appropriate for very young children, Pre–K to adult, and I agree with you Kathleen that the illustrations are beautiful and detailed. I particularly like the winter illustrations that show all of the other animals hibernating, but not the squirrel. I had no idea that squirrels sleep in late on snowy cold days, and are homeotherms, which means they do not hibernate.

Another illustration I enjoyed looking at is the page where readers see inside the squirrel’s nest inside the oak tree. The nest is full of leaves, small twigs, moss and grass. On the next page there is a family with three squirrel babies sleeping in the nest. These pages reminded me of the novel Wishtree because Red had two hollows. Instead of squirrel’s living in Red’s hallows, opossums made nests inside. Plus, Bongo collected objects such as ribbons, caps or a Monopoly token inside another hollow.

Another forest title to think about reading is Flora’s Tree House by Gabriel Alborozo (2019).

KATHLEEN: And of course, we need to mention the Wangari Maathai Tree books:
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The story of Wangari Maathai, Seeds of Change,
Wangari’s trees of Peace: A true story from Africa, Wangari Maathai: The woman who planted millions of trees, and
Mama Miti.

Title: Squirrel’s Family Tree
Author: Beth Ferry
Illustrator: A.N. Kang
ISBN: 9781338187366
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date Published: January 29, 2019

Throughout September 2019, Deanna and Kathleen give their takes on books focused on the importance of trees. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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