Squirrels

 

The world is full of wonderful squirrels: Pattertwig in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, Silent Sam and Jess Squirrel in Brian Jacques’s Redwall, Scrat, the acorn-chasing squirrel in the Ice Age movies. Check out the resources below for all things squirrel, including squirrel poems, squirrel paintings, squirrel robots, and a peculiar purple squirrel from Pennsylvania.

SQUIRREL STORIES: GOOD SQUIRRELS

  In Nancy Tafuri’s The Busy Little Squirrel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007), fall has arrived and a frenetic squirrel busily gathers nuts, berries, and apples, and prepares his nest for winter. He’s too busy to nibble pumpkin with the mice, hop rocks with the frogs, or run in the fields with the dogs – and finally, when asked to watch the moon with the owls, tired (but well-stocked) squirrel is fast asleep. For ages 3-6.
  In Pat Miller’s Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution (Albert Whitman & Company, 2010), it’s New Year’s Day according to the Nut-of-the-Month calendar and Squirrel struggles to make a resolution, having learned from Bear, the helpful librarian, that a resolution is “a promise you make to yourself to be better or to help others.” In search of a resolution, puzzled Squirrel visits friends Skunk, Mole, Turtle, and Porcupine, giving each a helping hand along the way; in the end she discovers that her actions show that she’s already fulfilling a resolution. For ages 4-6.
  The panic-stricken protagonist of Melanie Watts’s Scaredy Squirrel (Kids Can Press, 2008) refuses to leave his tree. Anything could be out there in the fearsome unknown – Martians, sharks, tarantulas, germs. And he’s well-prepared for threats with an emergency kit containing everything from antibacterial soap to a parachute. Then one day, terrified by passing (killer?) bees, he leaps from his tree – and discovers, to his amazement, that he’s not just a squirrel: he’s a flying squirrel. There are many sequels, in which Scaredy Squirrel variously fears rabbits, piranhas, jellyfish, falling coconuts, dragons, ghosts, bats, confetti, ponies, and Bigfoot. For ages 4-8.
  In Jim Aylesworth’s wonderful retelling of The Mitten (Scholastic, 2009), based on a Ukrainian folktale, a little boy goes out to play in the snow, bundled in a knitted red-wool hat, scarf, and pair of mittens – one of which he loses after a sled ride down the hill. A cold little squirrel finds the lost mitten and curls up inside to get warm; next a cold rabbit arrives, begging to come in too. Animal after animal stuffs itself into the expanding mitten until finally a little mouse is the last straw: the mitten bursts, leaving behind a scattered pile of yarn. At the end of the book, the grandmother is knitting the boy a new mitten. For ages 4-8.
  Miriam Young’s Miss Suzy (Purple House Press, 2004), originally published in 1964, is the story of a sweet and highly domestic gray squirrel – she’s a whiz with acorn pudding – who is tossed out of her cozy tree by a gang of delinquent red squirrels. She shelters in the attic of the house next door, where she finds old dollhouse and a box of toy soldiers. The toy soldiers come to life and soon adore Miss Suzy, who settles them in the dollhouse, cooks for them, and tucks them into bed every night. Eventually they help her return home and drive the red squirrels from her tree. For ages 4-8.
  Lisa Moser’s Squirrel’s World (Candlewick, 2007) is a short chapter book for beginning readers, in which enthusiastic and well-meaning Squirrel wants only to help his friends, but his manic efforts always seem to backfire. For ages 4-8.
  Kids’ Wings: Squirrel’s World has activities and information to accompany Squirrel’s World, including a squirrel origami pattern, a peanut-burying project (see if you can find them a week later), a pinecone squirrel craft, and instructions for a game of “Nutty Squirrels,” in which players guess which egg-carton-cup squirrel is hiding the nut.
  Earl of Don Freeman’s Earl the Squirrel (Puffin, 2007) has been told by his mother that it’s high time he learned to gather his own acorns, so off he goes to visit Jill, the little girl next door, who gives him a nut and a nutcracker. His mother is appalled – no squirrel needs a nutcracker – and makes him take it back. Jill then gives him a red scarf to keep his ears warm, which doesn’t please his mother either – furry squirrels don’t need scarves. Earl, now determined to prove himself and make his mother proud, sets out to find acorns – but his red scarf turns out to be a problem when he encounters Conrad the bull. For ages 4-8.
  Teaching Children Philosophy has background information and philosophical discussion questions for Earl the Squirrel, variously categorized under “Independence,” “Dependence on Technology,” and “Risk vs. Reward.”
  Toon Tellegen’s The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties (Boxer Books, 2009), with wonderful illustrations by Jessica Ahlberg, is a magical collection of nine animal stories. In the first of these, Squirrel – who lives in a house plastered with sticky notes – finds one reminding him of his upcoming birthday. He promptly invites all his friends, and then devotes himself to baking a marvelous array of cakes: huge honey cakes for the bear and the bumblebee, a grass cake for the hippo, and a cake made of water for the dragonfly, “a strange, gleaming cake and he put it to one side under the twigs of the rosebush.” A lovely book for ages 5 and up.
  In Philippa Pearce’s green-drenched The Squirrel Wife (Candlewick, 2007), the young swineherd Jack – despite the protests of his wicked older brother – ventures into the forest on a stormy night and rescues one of its resident magical green people, a man trapped under a fallen tree. As a reward, the green man gives Jack a golden ring that turns a squirrel into a lovely wood-wise woman who becomes his wife. They live happily in the forest until Jack’s brother, jealous, accuses Jack of theft and has him imprisoned; and to rescue him, the squirrel wife must make a heartbreaking choice. For ages 5-9.
  In James Burks’s graphic novel Bird & Squirrel on the Run (Scholastic/Graphix, 2012), Bird and Squirrel are an unlikely duo: Bird is a happy-go-lucky free spirit, while Squirrel, who never takes off his acorn helmet, is nervous and obsessive (“New things give me stomachaches”). Both are in danger from Cat, a toothy orange monster who would like nothing better than to eat them both. When Squirrel’s winter food supply is destroyed, Bird and Squirrel head south, forging a friendship, foiling a cat, and developing a taste for adventure along the way. For ages 7-10.
  By Graham Taylor and Graham Roumieu, A Really Super Book About Squirrels (Andrews McMeel, 2003) is a clever and extremely funny tale of a neighborhood squirrel (“Oh squirrel/We live so close/Yet we cannot be friends”), with irresistible ink-and-watercolor illustrations. For all ages.

SQUIRREL STORIES: BAD SQUIRRELS

  In Lois Ehlert’s Nuts to You (Sandpiper, 2004), illustrated with gorgeous paper collages, a feisty city squirrel digs up the flowerpots, steals seeds from the birdfeeder, and sneaks through a hole in the window screen into a little boy’s apartment bedroom. For ages 3-6.
  Teach Preschool’s Nuts About Acorns pairs a reading of Nuts to You with activities in which kids estimate numbers of acorns and make acorn shaker bottles.
  Nuts About Squirrels is a Preschool Educator Guide with instructions for an acorn-hiding game, acorn-planting and nut classification activities, and a short squirrel booklist.
  S’Quarrels (Home Lantern Games) is a fast-paced family-friendly card game in which players (squirrels) compete to collect the most acorns before the onset of Winter ends the game. In the process, they cope with Quarrels, Ambushes, and Whirlwinds, and try to avoid the dreaded Rotten Acorn. Suggested for 2 to 6 players, ages 6 and up. About $12.
  In Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (Frederick Warne, 2012), originally published in 1903, Nutkin – a mischievous pest with a taste for rhyming riddles – goes too far with grouchy owl Old Brown and loses a chunk of his tail.
  Read The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin with the original Potter illustrations online.
  Loud Crow Interactive’s Pop Out! The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is a wonderful 50-page interactive app in which Potter’s illustrations pop out of the page when touched or slide on tabs, along with animations and an audio background of chattering squirrels and growly owl. Also see Loud Crow’s terrific Pop Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  Adam Rubin’s hilarious and delightful Those Darn Squirrels! (Sandpiper, 2011) features the unspeakably grumpy Old Man Fookwire, who hates pies and puppies – but loves birds. He paints bird portraits and fills his yard with beautiful birdfeeders, in hopes of persuading his beloved birds stay with him through the winter. The feeders promptly attract a gang of particularly persistent and innovative (they’re good with pulleys and catapults) squirrels. When the birds do fly south, leaving Old Man Fookwire alone in his house mournfully eating cottage cheese, the squirrels decide to do him a good turn in payment for all the goodies they’ve nabbed. Sequels include Those Darn Squirrels Fly South and Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door. For ages 4-8.
  Squirrels Complete Insane Obstacle Course. If you have any doubt that squirrels are both persistent and innovative, this is the video for you: watch a squirrel navigate this Rube-Goldberg-like obstacle course.
  Inspired by Old Man Fookwire? From Deep Space Sparkle Art Lessons for Kids, see How to Draw a Bird for a great bird drawing, painting, and decorating project. Make beautiful bird portraits of your own.
  From Artists Helping Children, Easy Birdfeeders, House, and Perches has instructions and patterns for several different kinds of bird feeders and bird snacks, among them pinecone, soda bottle, and milk carton feeders. Also included: a recipe for bird biscuits. Squirrels, of course, like these too.
  The title characters of Kara LaReau’s Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War and Peas (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008) are neighbors, but not friends. When vegetables begin to disappear from their adjacent gardens, each blames the other. Squirrel hurls a rotten tomato at Rabbit; Rabbit turns the hose on Squirrel. Finally a huge human being – to whom, it becomes clear, the garden actually belongs – chases both Rabbit and Squirrel into the woods, where they stubbornly continue their battle. A lesson in how not to cope with conflict. For ages 4-8.
Also see blog posts on RABBITS and GARDENING.
  Naturalist Thornton Burgess wrote many nature-based books for children, beginning in 1910 with the publication of Old Mother West Wind. The stories are set in the Green Forest and star a vast cast of animal characters, among them Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Sammy Jay, Reddy Fox, and Little Joe Otter. In The Adventures of Chatterer the Squirrel (Dover Publications, 1992), Chatterer – a thoroughly mischievous red squirrel – has a narrow escape from Shadow the Weasel (never tease a weasel) and a lucky escape from Farmer Brown’s boy who captures him (he was in the corn crib pinching corn) and puts him in a cage. A chapter book for ages 5-9.
Read The Adventures of Chatterer the Squirrel online.
  Bill Adler’s Outwitting Squirrels (Chicago Review Press, 1993) is filled with squirrel stories, squirrel facts, and helpful strategies for keeping squirrels out of your birdfeeder. It’s also a hoot to read. Sample chapter titles include “Know the Enemy,” “The Unbearable Persistence of Squirrel Appetite,” and “What to Do if You Think Squirrels Are Cute.” A great resource for the squirrel-afflicted adult.
  For those who truly can’t stand squirrels: The Squirrel Defamation League  – an organization of confirmed squirrel haters – has as its motto “All squirrels must die!”

REAL SQUIRRELS

  Jennifer Keats Curtis’s Squirrel Rescue (Schiffer Publishing, 2012) is a realistic account of two children finding and saving a baby squirrel who has fallen from the nest. (What to do: put it in a box and leave so that the mother squirrel can recover it.) For ages 4-8.
  The Squirrel Place has a library of squirrel facts and basic information, a gallery of squirrel photos, video clips, online games, and instructions for caring for orphaned baby squirrels.
  Mel Boring’s Rabbits, Squirrels, and Chipmunks (Cooper Square Publishing, 1996) in the Take Along Guide series is a nicely designed and illustrated introduction to common species of the three featured animal groups, with descriptions, eating habits, where to find each, and assorted anecdotes and interesting facts. Also included are a few  hands-on projects, among them making a hanging nut ball for the squirrels and a peanut tightrope for chipmunks. For ages 5 and up.
  Diane Swanson’s Welcome to the World of Squirrels (Walrus Books, 2001), illustrated with color photographs, is a great basic introduction to squirrels, with a 32-page reader-friendly text covering squirrel anatomy, different types of squirrels, worldwide distribution, behavior, habitats, food, and predators. Readers learn that tree squirrels can have up to ten different nests (and they can weave a nest in a day). And don’t bother going to Australia to see squirrels. Australia has no squirrels. For ages 5-9.
  Richard W. Thorington and Katie Ferrell’s Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) is a nonfiction account of all things squirrel, variously covering the different types of squirrels, form and function (Can squirrels swim? How far can squirrels jump?), squirrel behavior, squirrel habitats and food, squirrels and humans, and squirrels in literature. An excellent resource for squirrel-obsessed older teenagers and adults.
  Flying Squirrels is a detailed kid-friendly overview, covering origins, anatomy, behavior, life cycle, and predators. Also included are audio, video, and image galleries, a range map, and nest box plans.

MULTICULTURAL SQUIRRELS

  Click here to learn to say “squirrel” in nearly 300 different languages. (In German, squirrel translates adorably as “oak kitten.”)
  In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr was the squirrel who darted up and down the trunk of Yggdrasil, the world tree, spreading gossip and carrying messages. Read about him (briefly) in “Yggdrasil, the World Tree” in D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths (New York Review of Books, 2005).
  Read the West African folktale The Squirrel and the Spider, in which a cunning Spider bilks the hardworking Squirrel of his harvest, only to be stolen from in turn by a greedy Crow.
  Indian Stories for Children has a retelling of the tale of “Lord Rama and the Squirrel” – the moral of which is that no task, however small, is unimportant.
  According to this Choctaw legend, solar eclipses are the fault of a hungry black squirrel.

OBSERVING SQUIRRELS

  Become a citizen squirrel scientist! Project Squirrel wants volunteers of all ages from all regions of the country to report squirrel sightings.
  Watching Squirrels has nature study suggestions and drawing helps for squirrel observers ages 8 and up.
Not enough squirrels to observe? An almost foolproof way to attract some is to FEED THEM.
  Homemade Squirrel Feeders for Kids has instructions for making simple squirrel feeders with dried corn cobs, pine cones, or milk cartons. Links on the site lead to more complicated projects, such as a squirrel feeder jar.
  See these instructions for making a simple corn cob feeder and a balancing corn cob feeder (fun for acrobatic squirrels).

THE SCIENCE OF SQUIRRELS

  Natalie Angier’s Nut? What Nut? is a short fascinating science essay on squirrels. Readers learn, for example, that squirrels have yellow-tinted eye lenses that act as natural sunglasses, and find out a bit about squirrel robots.
  From Science Netlinks, Squirrel Hoarding compares the nut-saving behaviors of red and gray squirrels with a short list of follow-up questions for kids.
  What do squirrels use their tails for? Among other things, to scare snakes. Read about it and watch a convincing video here
  Robosquirrels! For more on snake-scaring tails, see Robosquirrels versus Rattlesnakes, a short account of experiments using snakes and robot squirrels.
  National Geographic: Squirrel has fast facts on squirrels, a world map showing squirrel range, an audio clip of squirrel chatter, and an infographic comparing the size of a squirrel to a teacup.
  Find out how flying squirrels fly in How Squirrels Fly from Smithsonian magazine. (Scientists tested the squirrels in a wind tunnel.)
  With help from ancient squirrels, Russian scientists have managed to regenerate 30,000-year-old plants. Find out about it in Scientists and Squirrels Regenerate a Plant
  Hibernating squirrels are teaching scientists about the workings of the brain. Find out how (and learn about the frigid winters of arctic ground squirrels) here
  A 100-million-year-old saber-toothed squirrel probably looked much like Scrat from the Ice Age movies. Really. Check it out at LiveScience’s Saber-Toothed Squirrel

HISTORIC SQUIRRELS

  Squirrels were popular pets in colonial and early America. For information and a gallery of period paintings (with squirrels), visit Those Pesky Garden Squirrels as Pets.
  For more on the popular pet squirrel (often seen with gold-chain leashes and collars) see Wild Colonial American Pets.
  Ben Franklin’s famous epitaph for a departed pet squirrel (“Here SKUGG/Lies snug/As a bug in a rug”) is found in a letter to Georgiana Shipley, written in 1772. Read Franklin’s letter here
  Squirrels in High Places discusses the relationships of U.S. presidents to squirrels. Ronald Reagan fed them; Harry Truman appointed an official White House squirrel feeder; Dwight Eisenhower attempted to ban them from the White House lawn because they dug holes in his putting green. The George W. Bush family dog, Millie, chased them.
  Tommy Tucker – a very fashionable squirrel – was a national sensation in the 1940s. Check out this gallery of Tommy photos from the Life magazine archive.
  Runner-up to Tommy may be the 2009 Banff Crasher Squirrel, who sneaked into a Canadian couple’s vacation photo and promptly became an Internet sensation. See Crasher Squirrel in the original photo – and with Vladimir Putin, Abraham Lincoln, the cast of Star Trek, and on the moon.

I NEVER SAW A PURPLE SQUIRREL

There’s a wide range of color in squirrels. Gray squirrels, for example, can be black, brown, or tan; and red squirrels can range from black to brown to red (with white bellies). But…purple squirrels?

  There are pockets of pure-white squirrels scattered across North America, which is why so many towns claim to be the “Home of the White Squirrels.” For information on white squirrels and a white-squirrel map, see White Squirrels of North America
  From Woodland Habitat, What About Those Black Squirrels? tells all about black squirrels. At heart, they’re gray.
  For more on white and black squirrels, see Roadside America’s White Squirrel Wars and Black Squirrel Squabbles.
  Check out this (real) bright-purple squirrel from Pennsylvania. Learn all about it and the theories of what made it purple.

SQUIRREL POEMS

  Read W.B. Yeats’s To a Squirrel at Kyle-Na-No.
  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem Fable begins “The mountain and the squirrel/Had a quarrel…”
  This Poetry Activity Guide has squirrel poems – both titled “Squirrel” – by Valerie Worth and Ted Hughes, with discussion questions and activities (illustrate the poems; write a squirrel poem of your own; try a choral reading) for ages 8 and up.
   Arijit Mandal’s upbeat The Squirrel begins “Whisking, frisking/Hippity, hop/Up he goes/To the tree top!”
  Jack Prelutsky’s poem “Squirrels” is from the collection Something Big Has Been Here (Greenwillow, 2010). Or read it online along with a nice little note on making a personal poetry book for a kid.

SQUIRREL ARTS AND CRAFTS

  Squirrel Crafts has many creative projects with instructions and printable templates. Included are origami squirrels, balloon squirrels, sock puppet squirrels, and flying squirrel paper airplanes.
  Squirrel Crafts for Kids has a wonderful assortment of artistic squirrels, including gorgeous papier-mache squirrels, painted paper stand-up squirrels, egg-carton squirrels, and a stuffed chipmunk made from a glove.
  Build a squirrel! The Squirrel 3-D Puzzle is a Woodcraft Construction kit: pop out the 20 pieces and fit them together for a nice little stand-alone squirrel, suitable for painting (or nice as is). Recommended for ages 7 and up. About $4 from Amazon
  Activity Village’s Learn About Squirrels has squirrel coloring and notebooking pages, squirrel printables, and instructions for making a squirrel collage and spoon puppet.

A GIRL NAMED SQUIRREL?

  Emily Arnold McCully’s Squirrel and John Muir (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004) is a fictionalized take on a real incident that took place in California’s Yosemite Valley in 1868. Young Floy Hutchings, whose parents run Yosemite’s first hotel, is nicknamed Squirrel because of her wild and rebellious behavior. When naturalist John Muir comes to the Valley and takes a job at the hotel, he and the lonely little girl form a bond. Illustrated with lovely watercolor paintings. For ages 4-8.
  Squirrel Girl, Marvel Comics superheroine, has a tail, little claws in place of fingernails, and an ability to communicate with squirrels, hordes of which help her defeat enemies.
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