Written and Illustrated by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press, 2006
Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree.
The plot in a nutshell: A nervous squirrel tries to maintain his status quo.
Scaredy Squirrel is very content in his tree, where he feels safe from the things that frighten him, including killer bees, tarantulas, green martians, poison ivy, germs and sharks. He keeps the same routine day after day and tries to prepare for the unexpected by keeping an emergency kit handy and having an Exit Plan. One day, a killer bee appears and he jumps, knocking his emergency kit from the tree. He jumps after it without thinking and, as he is falling, he discovers that he is a flying squirrel! After that, he alters his daily routine, making a little time in each day to jump into the unknown.
You know you’re in for a fun book when you open the cover and find a warning that the main character “insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.” This sense of whimsy and playfulness runs through the whole book and is probably one of the main reasons that this book was only the first in a series that featured seven more books and a Canadian television series. Author/illustrator Melanie Watt has a lot of fun with this character and it makes this book a real treat to read. While teaching the importance of boldly facing the unknown and being willing to take chances, it also covers the helpfulness of being prepared and introduces kids to the concepts of weighing pros versus cons and making a daily schedule.
I like that his experiences don’t completely transform Scaredy Squirrel. At the end of the book and in the books that follow, although he learns new coping mechanisms, he still deals with his fears. I think this is often true in real life, when real change often comes in gradual steps more so than drastic leaps. There are lots of enjoyable features at the Scaredy Squirrel website, including games and activities, printables, videos and a map of his travels. But be warned, the website is listed as being not suitable for spiders.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that if you never take chances, you never give yourself the opportunity to find out what amazing things you can do.