So I have been putting off reading Nuts To You, by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, August 2014, ages 7-11ish), until yesterday morning. Had it not been for its nomination for the Cybils Awards, I would probably have put it off forever and ever, despite a. Lynne Rae Perkins being a good writer and b. the book showing up on the Publishers Weekly best books of 2014 list and c. October having been Squirrel Awareness Month and d. being a fan of Scaredy Squirrel.
One of my many admirable character traits (besides modesty) is my willingness to admit I was wrong.
I was wrong in this case.
Because I really truly enjoyed Nuts to You, and thought the squirrel adventures were great and delightfully squirrely, and it was funny and I liked the pictures. The squirrels were recognizably squirrels (as opposed to, say, voles) and it wasn't sweetly precious at all.
Brief summary: Jed gets snatched by a hawk...but luck is on his side. His friend, TsTs, sees him fall from the talons, and she and another friend set off to find him, following the power lines. The finding part is the challenge, because the characters are, after all, squirrels, and if you have ever watched squirrels you will have noticed that they rarely travel in straight lines, and they scatter easily...
It is a good thing that Jed got snatched, because it turns out that the trees along the power lines are being cleared, and the squirrel homeland is in danger. Happily this never becomes a Fantasy Danger, in which the chainsaws are sabotaged by heroic squirrels or something like that. Instead it is the much more plausible "how the heck do you get a bunch of squirrels to believe their home is in danger when all they are thinking about is autumnal nut gathering" sort of story.
And like I said, it is funny, and I liked the individual squirrels as characters. I especially appreciated the "loyalty to friends" motif not just because I like loyal friendships myself, but because I think it something the target audience of fourth and fifth graders really appreciates too. Possibly even third graders, possibly even sixth.