Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door by Adam Rubin

Lynn: “Those DARN squirrels” is a cry that echoes frequently through our house  – or at least words to that effect.  Here in Michigan bird feeders are everywhere and the constant battle with squirrels is just as common.  Our feeder bristles with complicated gadgets my engineer husband has added, hoping to baffle the squirrels who can clean out a feeder faster than you can say “sunflower seeds.”  Young readers  familiar with these Machiavellian little acrobats  will delight in Rubin’s quirky book, Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door (Clarion 2011) – and so will their parents.

In the winter, the squirrels zip in through the mail drop to warm themselves by the fire and finish Old Man Fookwire’s crossword puzzle, exasperating the old grump.  In the summer, Mr. Fookwire blooms along with the flowers and the return of the birds whom he loves to paint.  Then Little Old Lady Hu, the town baker, moves in next door with her terrible cat, Muffin.  The cat terrifies the birds, interrupts Fookwire’s painting and and gives the squirrels noogies and wedgies – quite a feat as squirrels don’t wear underwear.  Sustained by cheese puffs and ginger ale, the squirrels roll out the blueprints and perfect a cunning plan to thwart Muffin.  Peace returns to the neighborhood and even Old Man Fookwire changes his mind about squirrels – although he is still a grump after all.

Our focus group consider themselves too old for picture books but they changed their minds for this terrific book.  They gave it a definite thumbs up and after we read it together, they have picked it up independently to read frequently.  Daniel Salmieri’s quirky illustrations are hilarious and I think they work best with readers in the 1st through 3rd grade set.  Rubin’s over-the-top humor too is geared for those slightly older readers who will thoroughly appreciate it along with wonderful invented words like tumbleberries and Bonga birds that are so much fun to say.  Face it- the squirrels will always win the feeder wars so sit back, pick this funny story and enjoy.

P.S.  While searching for an image to add to this post, I belatedly discovered that this is a second book!  I’m off to track down Those Darn Squirrels (Clarion 2008)!  How could we have missed that???

Cindy: I guess by now our faithful readers know why we get along so well with our Focus Group and my middle school students…we both have an arrested sense of humor. This book made me laugh. Salmieri’s illustrations are a perfect match for Rubin’s silly story. Serious-minded folk might object to the cheese puff and gingerale fueled revenge planning session but kids who are bullied will be happy to see the fat cat doused with a bucket of water turning him into a “skinnymalink.” And they will laugh at the picture.

A prequel, Lynn? “Great googley-moogley!” You will share, won’t you?

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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