Review of The Squirrels' Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year [A First Science Storybook]
by Martin Jenkins; illus. by Richard Jones
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
7/18    978-0-7636-9600-9    $16.99

A pair of squirrels and other residents of their pond-side community interact through four distinct seasons. In winter, the sleeping squirrels pop out quickly for acorns under the watchful eye of a barn owl. They feast on maple buds in the spring, as frogs and birds appear by the pond. Summer heat and storms are followed by a cooling fall, in which the squirrels bury acorns for the upcoming winter. Continuity in the story, as well as a hint of danger, is provided by the relationship between a predator owl and the squirrels. Perfectly crafted sentences — simple, yet packed with clues to the underlying science — emphasize patterns and the relationships among seasons, weather, and nature: “It’s winter. It’s cold! The sun is low in the sky, the pond is frozen, and there’s snow on the ground.” Mixed-media illustrations echo the scientific sophistication of the text, using a muted palette that still captures each season’s distinct landscapes, trees, and animal behaviors. The stylized but not anthropomorphized squirrels are filled with personality, as if stopped for just a moment as they scurry up and down tree branches. A note for adults about the science of the seasons is provided at the beginning, and one for young readers (including some questions and a simple experiment) appears at the end. Appended with an index.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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