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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Clarion Books, Thomas Allen & Son. 2011. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"When it got too cold outside, the squirrels would drop in through Fookwire's mail slot and visit him at home. They'd warm themselves by the fire and finish the old man's crossword puzzles. When Fookwire woke up, he'd chase them out with a broom."

The squirrels are at it again!

In a sequel to Those Darn Squirrels, we find Old Man Fookwire contemplating spring and watching the skies for the birds he loves to return. He has been lonely and agitated while they've been basking in warmer climes. With only the squirrels for company and having to endure their neverending mischief, he longs for a respite from their everyday antics.

It appears that rest and relaxation is not in the cards. After the birds' return and some much needed time to appreciate their company, the afternoon ambiance is shattered:

Old Man Fookwire spilled cottage
cheese all over his suspenders.

The floogle bird fell out of its nest.

The squirrels had to restart their
annual chess tournament."

Little Old Lady Hu and her cat Muffins are moving in next door. Muffins needs friends, and it is soon clear why he has none. He is a singularly mean and evil being. The squirrels are first to react:

"The squirrels were scared of the cat, so they hid inside the drainpipes. The birds weren't sure why eveyrone was hiding, but they stuffed themselves down the chimney just to be safe."

Is is possible for sworn enemies to make an alliance and rid the neighborhood of its new pest?

Adam Rubin uses humor and exemplary wordplay to tell this amusing and entertaining tale of familiar characters. The given names are the first clue, and then he just goes on to tell his story with rich, full language that will have listeners begging for a repeat performance...and a performance it is! Kids will love the references to a wet willy, a noogie, and even wedgies for the craftily conniving squirrels, not to mention brains winning over brawn in a epic struggle.

Daniel Salmieri seems to have a natural propensity for the humor, giving Fookwire the long carrot- shaped and very red nose, the overpowering glasses, and a body that seems only to carry weight at the belly and Adam's apple.  The squirrels are full of spunk, overt arrogance and a grim desire for revenge. Muffins knows nothing about charm and looks the part. It may be his reaction to his given name! Whatever it is, this is a story that is sure to charm! Take that, Muffins!

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