21 January is one of our favourite days here at Nut Press because it’s Squirrel Appreciation Day, which means extra helpings of nuts for Squizzey and the squirrel crew who work so tirelessly (at least a full afternoon a week!) behind the scenes to make him and this blog look good, and the outdoor squirrels, who get a bonus feed too.
This year, I thought it’d be fun to look at some books featuring squirrels, and eventually Squizzey agreed to help me put this list together.
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter: I think I can probably date my love of squirrels back to these two gorgeously-illustrated stories by Beatrix Potter. (I don’t understand why the one featuring a red squirrel is much better known than the other tale which features a grey. -Sx – I guess it’s just one of life’s mysteries and injustices, Squizz.) Seeing the books brought to life in the ballet, Tales of Beatrix Potter, which was beautifully choreographed by Frederick Ashton, sealed the deal and they remain two of my favourite books.
Keeping Henry by Nina Bawden. One of my favourite books as a child was Carrie’s War, which tells the story of Carrie and her brother Nick who are sent as evacuees to Wales and are billeted with the cantankerous Mr Evans and his much more timid sister. It doesn’t feature a squirrel but Keeping Henry is the story of a red squirrel her brother Charlie catapults out of his nest (don’t do this or I will have the ninja squirrels after you! -Sx) when Nina Bawden and her brothers were themselves evacuees during the Second World War in Wales.
The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright & Jim Field and I’m Sticking With You by Smriti Halls & Steve Small. These more recent picture books are wonderful with great illustrations and both have lovely stories of friendship, whether it’s the one that results out of Spontaneous Cyril and Plan-Ahead Bruce’s battle for the last nuts of the season or how squirrel comes to appreciate bear’s friendship after being mean to him.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson/Derek Charm gave Marvel Universe’s Squirrel Girl aka Doreen Green and her squirrel sidekick Tippy-Toe her own comic book series in which Doreen attempts to leave her superhero past behind her and head to college but things don’t quite go to plan.
How to Keep a Pet Squirrel by Axel Scheffler is a fun book (but NOT an instruction manual!!- Sx) which Axel put together with his own illustrations after he discovered a guide to procuring and caring for a pet red squirrel in a 1910 children’s encyclopaedia. Some proceeds from the book go towards Save our Squirrels.
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Now made into a Disney movie, this is the story of Flora Belle Buckman, a cynical young girl, who looks out of her window one day to see her neighbour vacuuming up a squirrel (a scary opener to this story, squirrel friends, but it is a wonderful story of hijinks and friendship. – Sx)
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie features a main character called Veblen we fell in love with, not least because she believes that the grey squirrel who follows her around understands everything she says (why is this so difficult to believe? We’re highly intelligent creatures. – Sx) Squizz and I love this book so much that we bought the UK and US edition of it and I’ve linked to my review of it on this blog.
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov. Professor Timofey Pnin is in exile from Tsarist Russia and now facing the challenges of his new life and language in America. The appearance of a squirrel one day, which Pnin clumsily tries to help drink from a water fountain on campus, serves to illustrate the playful nature of his novel but squirrels may have a deeper significance in Nabokov’s novel, as explained here.
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff. (I didn’t want to include this one – it’s cruel and sad what happens to the squirrel. – Sx) Squizz isn’t wrong but Jack does regret his actions in this coming-of-age story set against the background of a violent and wildly optimistic post-War America.
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz & Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The title story of this collection is a fable about the pursuit of great wealth which begins with a young man chasing a squirrel for food in Montana (*sniggers* The squirrel is way too fast to become his snack though! Sx) and stumbling upon great riches.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris. The characters may be animals in this short story collection but their interactions seem every bit as messy and complicated as our human ones. In the title story, two lovers face family prejudice to their relationship. Humorous and brilliantly observed behavioural tales.
The Country Set by Hannah Dale is a gorgeous book, especially if you’re familiar with Hannah’s designs for Wrendale, which celebrates our favourite British animals with a page each about them and their characteristics, all beautifully illustrated by Hannah. There’s a separate entry for red and grey squirrels.
Leisure by W.H. Davies. We couldn’t end without including an extract from this poem by the Welsh poet.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?-
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
You can read the full poem here.
Squizz and I hope you enjoyed our selection of squirrelly books, poems and short stories. Let us know below if there are any others you know of which you think we’d enjoy. Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day to you all!