Review: Rowan the Red Squirrel

Tonight’s Childtastic review is of Rowan the Red Squirrel, written by Lynne Rickards and illustrated by Jon Mitchell.
Image result for rowan the red squirrel
What it’s about
Deep in the woods, in a crooked old tree,

Lived two little squirrels, with Mum, who made three.

Hazel was brave – a flash and a flurry,

While Rowan was shy, and tended to worry.

Red squirrels Hazel and Rowan are given their first taste of a little bit of freedom by their mother one day and Hazel is determined to make the most of it. She delights in testing the all the tastes and textures of the forest, from pinecones to toadstools, and plays in the water while Rowan looks on in worry. Despite her repeated reassurances that nothing can go wrong, something inevitably does and it’s up to Rowan to find some bravery to get them out of a sticky situation.

The review
This is a delightful book to read aloud to children. Told in rhyming iambic pentameter (a form preferred by the Bard and many a poet!) this is a story about the value of being cautious, but not overly so, and the value of being brave, but not to a dangerous extent. It is also a story of how those who are fearful can often become brave, and those who might seem foolhardy can still be clever. Rowan and his sister Hazel exemplify these character traits but each flaw has a redeeming virtue, making this less of a lesson in morality and more of a portrayal of how we all are – imperfect but with qualities and skills.

The illustrations by Jon Mitchell are gorgeous, too, full of autumnal colours and rich contrasts of blue and red and green. They also beautifully capture the contrasting spirits of Rowan and Hazel.
When I asked if the children liked the book, they declared: ‘we more than like it! We love it!’ They learned a few new words in the process of reading it (‘kits’ for young squirrels, ‘drey’ for a squirrel’s home, and ‘wee’ for little) and they liked to guess what might happen next when the tension built. When I asked them which squirrel was the bravest, Rowan came out on top but when pressed for answer on who was the cleverest, Rowan and Hazel won equally. It’s hard to say why without giving the story away so you’ll have to trust us on this one!
Rowan the Red Squirrel is published by Picture Kelpies, part of Floris Books. 
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