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Top 100 Picture Books #58: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

#58 Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt (2006)
31 points

This one helped my daughter understand her anxious feelings in a fun, no pressure way. – Joanne Rousseau

The last time we conducted this poll I considered Scaredy Squirrel to be the only true 21st century picture book on this list.  Let me explain.  Certainly we’ve a fair amount of author/illustrators out there that have appeared post-2000 to worm their ways into the hearts and minds of children.  But Scaredy Squirrel is, to my mind, here today because it became an internet phenomenon.

Should I credit The Cybils?  Partly.  But word of electronic mouth may really be the reason.  I’ve seen Scaredy mentioned on blog after blog after blog.  I’ve seen people discuss it via webchats, online reviews, Amazon discussions, and more.  Scaredy Squirrel, you may be afraid of everyone and everything out there, but the one thing you are not afraid of is sure-footed viral marketing.  Well done, sir.

From my review: “Scaredy Squirrel’s world is straightforward and easy to navigate. His tree is safe and comforting whereas everything else on the planet is ‘the unknown’ and therefore worthy of fear. I mean, consider how dangerous everything is. There’s poison ivy and martians and sharks and germs and all kinds of stuff to watch out for. Scaredy Squirrel, therefore, sees no good reason why he should do anything other than eat, sleep, and look at the view from his tree’s verdant branches all day. He even has an emergency kit near at hand. Then… one day… the unthinkable occurs. Out of nowhere a ‘killer’ bee startles our hero and causes him to drop his kit. Down plunges Scaredy (before remembering the whole don’t-leave-the-tree plan) but rather than crash to the ground he finds that he is capable of something entirely new: gliding. Turns out that Scaredy has been a flying squirrel all along and never knew it. Now Scaredy makes exactly one leap into the unknown every day before playing dead for two hours and going home. And for this little squirrel, that’s a mighty big step to take.”

Jen Robinson’s Book Page said of Scaredy, “I already consider him a friend of mine, with his timid, toothy smile, but I’ll be happy to see him make more.”

MotherReader called it, “A perfect book.”

And in 2006 it won the Cybil for Best Picture Book.  He even has his own website.  Awww.  How can you not love this little guy?  Considering the vast hoards of over-protected children out there, Scaredy really is a hero for our times.

Note how the professional reviewers were unable to keep from comparing Scaredy to other books:

Booklist said of it, “Despite the simply drawn cartoons and brief text, this is more sophisticated in tone than Martin Waddell’s Tiny’s Big Adventure (2004), though the message is similar.”

Publishers Weekly said, “It’s an indication of how well Watt (Leon the Chameleon) knows her helicopter-parented audience that she’s able to turn the phrase “antibacterial soap” into a bona fide punchline. . . . Youngsters will go nuts over this one.”  <—- Best. Review. Quote. Ever.

And School Library Journal said, “Like other successful worrywarts before him, such as Kevin Henkes’s Wemberly Worried (HarperCollins, 2000) and Rosemary Wells’s Felix and the Worrier (Candlewick, 2003), Scaredy Squirrel needn’t fret about finding readers to cheer him on.”

Hey, Yanks.  Did you know they turned Scaredy Squirrel into a very Spongebob-esque television show?  Would I lie to you?

Personally, I sort of prefer this good old-fashioned book trailer:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.