Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? The beginning of this poetic ode to friendship is narrated by the earnest Bear, rhapsodizing about what good friends he and Squirrel are: “Like peas in a pod, you and I fit.” But Bear crowds Squirrel in the back of a taxi, sinks their canoe, sends Squirrel flying off a seesaw, and breaks Squirrel’s teacup, all the while singing Squirrel’s praises and promising never to leave his side.
Things take an unexpected turn when Squirrel, frustrated by Bear’s oversized presence and overwhelming neediness, loses his temper and demands that Bear give him space. Bear, dejected, trudges away from the igloo they had been sharing, and Squirrel enjoys his newfound freedom…for a bit. Realizing he misses his big best friend, he chases after him exclaiming that “Me without you? It just doesn’t work.” The rest of the story shows the friends working together to fix the canoe, problem-solving how to use the seesaw, and sharing a cup of tea.
This is a winning combination of words and pictures; the rhymes are fun to read, and the watercolor illustrations are just right. Small’s animals are simply drawn and beautifully shaded, against stark backgrounds (at times resembling some of Jon Klassen’s stories but without the darker themes). The illustrations are key to understanding the plot of the narrative, as readers can watch Squirrel’s increasing irritation with Bear even though Bear is unaware that he is upsetting his friend, and will cheer when the duo reunites. It will make a wonderful readaloud, or even reader’s theater for two. The book’s obvious messages about working together to solve problems, and learning to communicate with others about your feelings before you get too upset, are not new, but valuable and always worth reinforcing, but the book will definitely be useful for children who might be having similar problems with classmates, or siblings.
Anything you did not like about the book? no
To whom would you recommend this book? It is suitable for children in PreK to grade 2, and would definitely be a good fit as a whole class readaloud or in a collection of books about solving friendship problems. With its two narrators, it will lend itself well to dramatic reading by students, and bibliotherapy as well.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 9/8/2020