Bird & Squirrel (series)
On the Run,
On the Edge
by James Burks
published by Graphix, an Imprint of Scholastic
Making the leap from animation for movies and television to children's publishing, James Burks has successfully drawn from his experience to present a set of delightful books. While Haggis & Tank, and Beep & Bah had a modest influence on the seven year old, somehow, Bird & Squirrel caught his attention and held it for long, entertaining and amusing him suitably.
There are three books so far - Bird & Squirrel On the Run, Bird & Squirrel On Ice, and Bird & Squirrel On the Edge (released Oct, 2015). The very first book, On the Run, introduces the happy-go-lucky devil-may-care Bird, and meteorite-might-fall-on-my-head Squirrel who likes to play it safe and follow the rules, plus the I-am-going-to-eat-you Cat who, obviously, wants to eat them. But he has to catch them first!
The clean and colorful panels, the crisp and kid-friendly text, plus plenty of action just leaping out of the page made this a favorite read for the resident seven year old. The story is fairly predictable. This being the first, we learn how Bird & Squirrel become buddies and seal their friendship by helping each other out of dire situations, that somehow seem to be brought on by Bird most of the time. The entire book is one long scene or episode of Bird & Squirrel on the run, no plot per se or intricate storytelling.
Bird & Squirrel On Ice has elements of fantasy and slightly more involved plot than the first book, with the introduction of a new character and a sense of urgency and quest. Of course, being gullible, Bird doesn't sense the danger of becoming Killer-Whale-Food, and he bungles through, but comes out fine in the end, thanks to Squirrel and the new friend, Sakari, the female penguin warrior.
Bird & Squirrel On the Edge has some tense moments and cliff-hangers, with a new friend, and plenty of close-calls with the wolves. When the usually cautious Squirrel accidentally hits the Bird on the head while trying to ward off the slavering wolves, naturally the Bird develops amnesia and loses his unaffected bravado. Role reversal is inevitable. Squirrel takes on the task of protecting the baby bear - yes, a lost cub can't be thrown to the wolves - and Bird just gets in the way... Until... of course, Bird gets another bonk on the head accidentally and everything turns out fine - bear cub is united with Mama and the friends are safely home.
The stark contrast of the two main characters, with Squirrel acting as the perfect foil for Bird's exuberant lunacy, plus precise sound-bites-style dialog that reflects the snarkiness that today's generation has a facility for, the books seemed to have made an impression with the kids at home.
Why does Squirrel wear an acorn cap helmet? Doesn't he know it is not going to protect him from meteorites? Besides, it has to be a giant acorn to have a cap that fits Squirrel, unless Squirrel is a miniature one so the normal size acorn would fit... Now, what kind of bird is Bird? He is yellow and orange, his beak doesn't give a big clue... How does Cat keep coming back, even after it falls all the way down a ravine? These are some of the questions the kid was itching to know the answers for, which is a good indicator that the book engaged him positively. Why else would he care to know so much, right?
[Video of Cleaning up Bird & Squirrel On Ice]
[Read an Excerpt at Scholastic Canada]
[image source: scholastic.ca, jamesburks.com]