CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 15 . . . . December 9, 2011
Sammy Squirrel & Rodney Raccoon to the Rescue.
Duane Lawrence. Illustrated by Gordon Clover.
Vancouver, BC: Granville Island Publishing (Distributed by Stellar Press), 2011.
76 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Deborah Mervold and Kira Gerein.
Sammy liked to be busy and productive, but found that if his morning was full of activity he needed to balance it with a quieter afternoon. Upon returning home, he made himself a pot of green leaf tea and settled into his armchair with a book. His favourite author, Magpie Indawood, had just published a new novel whose plot gripped the reader with a marvelous dramatic intensity. Sammy found it impossible to stop reading and stayed in his chair the whole afternoon book in one hand . . . teacup in the other.
But the sunlight, which had filtered its way around the trees and through his tree house windows, had now begun to fade.
It’s hard to read in the dim light of late afternoon, Sammy thought and frowned, since he really didn’t want to put this book down. Crow’s Beak was a captivating story about a famous old crow who was kidnapped . . . or crow-napped, to be more precise.
Sammy Squirrel and his friend, Rodney Raccoon, hear about Judy Crow, a portentous crow, who was seen leaving Stanley Park in the presence of two large crows. As occurs in the book Rodney is reading, he realizes that Judy has been “crow-napped”. The two friends set off for the big, scary city of Vancouver to try and rescue Judy. Judy has asked to be called Judith Raven because it is more “posh”, a request which gives the reader insight into her character.
When Sammy and Rodney arrive at English Bay and the Sylvia Hotel, they find an “Animal Inn” tucked into a back corner. With help from the front desk clerk, Fernando Fox, and the security patrol, Mortimer Mole, they venture into tunnels and find out what is going on. The book that Sammy was reading plays a role in solving the mystery and helps with the rescue plans.
The characters have alliterative names, a stylistic device which would appeal to the intended audience. Characters include Squirty Skunk who sits at the exit to the tunnel under the hotel, Reginald Rat from Scotland who opened the Argyle Cafe in the trunk of an old fir tree near Beaver Lake with his decor in the argyle pattern, Renee Rabbit who encounters the two on the trail and has to put on her glasses because they fall off when she hops, and Penelope Pigeon who happens to be tap dancing in the area and overhears the story. Rodney and Sammy encounter obstacles on their journey, including Rodney’s always being hungry and looking for food and their encounter with a Doberman pincher, or Botherman Snitcher as Rodney calls him, who tries to prevent the two from returning to Stanley Park.
The language provides colour and humour to the story. There are similarities to human games, such as “nutter” which is like soccer, and references to books, like “Squirrels Guide to Greenery” which enables Sammy to identify the Virginia Creeper covering the hotel. The author has extensive details which add to the interest and the humour with both the characters and the setting. The 10 chapters are short and have titles which assist readers in their understanding of the plot. The characters are a blend between exhibiting animal behaviour and human characteristics, such as the ability to talk, read, and drink tea out of teacups. This approach adds interest and is a vital part of the story. The vocabulary is suitable and appropriate for the intended audience, and the dialogue is realistic. The black and white illustrations add humour and contribute to readers’ understanding of the text.
Although Sammy Squirrel + Rodney Raccoon to the Rescue is a sequel, the book can stand alone. References are made to the first book in this series, Sammy Squirrel & Rodney Raccoon: A Stanley Park Tale, in which the two friends attempted to go to Vancouver and ended up assisting the deer in Japan.
Sammy Squirrel + Rodney Raccoon to the Rescue would appeal to a variety of readers, including readers of fantasy, animal and adventure stories. This book would be an excellent class novel for individual reading or as a read-aloud choice particularly for the younger ages in the intended audience. It would be an excellent addition for personal, class, school and public libraries.
Deborah Mervold, an educator from Shellbrook, SK, is now doing faculty training and program development at Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology. Kira Gerein is a Grade 4 student in Saskatoon, SK.
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