Earl the Squirrel
Don Freeman ~ Viking, 2005
I realize according to pub date, this book is not vintage, but seeing as it was written oh, so long ago, way back in the 50s, I'm still featuring it as part of the Don Freeman week. This was an unpublished favorite of Don's son Roy, and it is because of him that my son has come to fall in love with the acorn-searching squirrel. And who wouldn't, really? Those little almond eyes are divine!
So, one day Earl's mother decides it's high time for him to start finding his own food, but he doesn't know the first thing about foraging. He asks his friend, Jill, a sweet girl who lives nearby, and she gives him an acorn and a nutcracker. Needless to say, the mother calls him spoiled. When Jill makes him a bright red scarf, the scolding only gets worse.... but when the scarf wins the attentions of a raging bull, that is when the story really gets hot.
Earl hopped up on top of the bull's burly back. He didn't see Conrad's long, sharp horns -- all he saw were acorns galore! "Who's that tickling my shoulder?" the big bull smoldered. Earl didn't see Conrad's nose -- all he saw was a great way to reach the acorns. And all Conrad saw was Earl's scarf!
The two-tone illustrations are marvelous and in Roy's essay on the subject I love how he refers to the drawings hanging around his house as "scratch board illustrations with the red scarf as a plastic overlay." The execution and appeal of this book is astounding. The fact that it remained unshared all these years a real shame. What an incredible gift to bestow on children all these years later.
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