Today I accidentally discovered that there is a television show on Cartoon Network “loosely based” on my of my favorite picture books, Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel. In the one minute I watched before my roommate and I switched back to Hurricane Irene coverage, Scaredy Squirrel got excited to go to paddleball camp. The Scaredy Squirrel I know would never go to paddleball camp.
I don’t normally gravitate towards picture books; I tend to prefer chapter books and novels when it comes to children’s books. Scaredy stuck out to me in part because of the adorable, clever illustrations, in part because of the hilariousness of the story. Scaredy lives in his tree and never leaves, because he’s afraid of what might be lurking out in the world, thinks like germs, sharks, and green Martians. A lot of his story is told in list form, which amplifies the humor. He prepares himself with an emergency kit and exit strategies for all situations, a lot of his safety seeming to rely on his ability to play dead. All is well (if not boring), until one day a bee makes its way to his tree, and Scaredy ends up falling out. In his descent, he realizes he is actually a flying squirrel, and enjoys a few moments of adventurous exhilaration, before landing and playing dead for two hours. From there, he realizes that maybe the outside world isn’t completely terrifying, and then works eight minutes of flying into his rigid daily schedule.
What I especially appreciate about this book, and about further books in the series (Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, Scaredy Squirrel at Night), is that Scaredy’s attitude towards life is challenged, but never fully changed. He adapts, but it’s a slow progression to get him to stop being afraid. I like the message this sends, that life is a progression and that personality changes aren’t instantaneous. Besides, if Scaredy Squirrel stopped being scared, there’d be no more books for me to read.