Guess what! Stitching for Literacy’s two children’s book professionals have agreed to stay on for a while. They’ve barely scratched the surface of the books they love to share.
“Be cheerful” proclaims a note posted on the squirrel’s wall. Our forgetful title character has scattered reminders in every nook and cranny of his cozy home. The delicate illustration shows us a wall covered in tiny, treasured notes with the squirrel (looking a bit perplexed) pondering their content. Beechnuts. A favorite food. The Ant. A call to visit his best friend. And most exciting of all: My Birthday. A special day. This out-of-the-way note spurs the action of the first story from this extraordinary collection of animal fantasy tales.
The squirrel immediately begins to write invitations to all his friends – every creature from the sky, land and sea. He is careful not to forget anyone, and then, a magical wind appears and swirls the letters around depositing them with the proper recipients. But his labors are not complete. Next, he makes the perfect cake for each of his guests (salt cakes for the sea creatures, a water cake for the dragonfly, a honey cake for the bear). The celebration is a success with thoughtful presents, a dancing parade and, naturally, overindulging in cake. Ahlberg’s exquisite drawings enhance the humor by presenting a post-feast sleepy bunny with an extremely full tummy.
Tellegen’s stories exude charm. They follow in the spirit of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I half expected Mole, Ratty, and impetuous Toad to appear at the birthday festivities! Each independent tale rambles along, focusing more on the journey than the destination. We discover adventure in the small moments of quiet wonder, reflection, and (of course) friendship.
I recommend the collection as a perfect shared bedtime read. It would serve as a nice bridge from picture books to longer chapter books. The whimsical storytelling structure appeals to readers (and listeners) of all ages. I particularly enjoyed Tellegen’s mirthful and uncommon language usage (as translated by Martin Cleaver), which included treats like gleaming, scrumptious and delicacy. Finally, Ahlberg’s beautiful watercolors create an illuminated storybook, which invites the viewer to look and re-look at all the delightful details.
Did I mention the squirrel and friends are utterly charming? Not that I am obsessed, but each day finds me cheerfully meandering off to my mailbox, and hoping – hoping – hoping…for a special birthday invitation.
Suzy Wilson has been a Bookseller and Children’s Book Buyer for a decade plus a few bonus years. She is a constant reader, resulting in numerous tripping-over-curb injuries.