A larger than life, totally wacky adventure that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. Kids will love it!
Ben, Cassie and Alfie are three young squirrels who live in Blackwater Park. They have a very hard life. Indeed, every day is like an extreme survival programme – orphaned by a terrible storm, they’ve had to leg it from lightning, bolt from buzzards, and hide from herons. Now it looks like they might starve to death as their stash of buried acorns has been ruined by a terrible flood. Our desperate trio are forced to leave their home to search for food. Fortunately, they can smell a mouth-watering aroma across the road – a sweetness that might just be the answer to their prayers. They set off to investigate, unaware of the dangers they are about to face from almost being flattened by a lorry’s thundering wheels to becoming squirrel sausages (squisages). But that’s only the start. When they meet Salty – a grumpy, greedy old squirrel who’s addicted to popcorn – they find themselves on an even bigger adventure.
As the title of this book and this brief summary suggests, this is a larger than life, totally wacky adventure that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. Indeed, both the characters and the content remind me of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. There is, however, much more action in this story – to the extent that it almost reads like a story version of a cartoon where everything goes wrong. For example, they have to use a banner as a tightrope to cross the road but it snaps before they make it across and our three friends are left dangling from the string with Ben’s right paw taking the entire load. Then, only a short time after making their way to safety, they find themselves running for lives from a vicious doberdoddle with his razor-sharp teeth snapping at their tails.
While I am confident that young readers will enjoy these exciting action scenes, I suspect the thing that will appeal the most is the larger than life ideas. These are simply inspired. You may think talking, popcorn-eating, squirrels are original but that’s only the start. The ideas get better and better as the book goes on and I knew this was going to be special when the amazing popcorn-making machine – the Pop-O-Matic 3000 – is unveiled. There are repeated warnings of the capacity of this very special machine (five kilos exactly, not a microgram more) so we just know that, at some point in the story, it will be overloaded and something huge will happen. We just don’t know what and I challenge you to guess.
The idea is bigger and bolder than anything I could possibly imagine and kids will love it. (Spoiler alert: don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens). Our squirrel friends take an unexpected tumble in the overloaded popcorn machine and emerge as giant mutant squirrel monsters with unique super-hero powers! What’s more, these super-powers enable them to overcome their worst fears.
The silly story is supported by a full-set of two-colour illustrations by Calloway Berkeley O’Reilly. These exactly capture the cartoon style of the story, complete with go faster lines for the chase scenes and action bubbles. My favourite, however, is an illustration of a very desperate and miserable looking Salty when he is caught and trapped in a cage.
If you enjoyed this strange and silly story, why not try Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold by Steve Webb.
Publication date: September 2018
Publisher: Shrine Bell