Batcat and the Seven Squirrels

illus. by Kasia Charko. 64p. Orca. Oct. 2016. pap. $6.95. ISBN 9781459812550; ebk. ISBN 9781459812567.
Gr 1–3—Inspired by the author's childhood experience, this early chapter book will entertain young readers. From the first page, readers are drawn in as they anticipate the creature Nathan sees clinging to his screen door. With a page turn, readers discover it is a baby squirrel. Black-and-white illustrations help developing readers visualize the situation. Indications of the mother squirrel's demise send Nathan's family into action, and soon their house is filled with an entire litter of orphaned squirrels. In addition to the squirrels, there is a neighborhood cat, Batcat, whom each family member has been secretly feeding. Unsure of how Batcat will react to the squirrels, the family members try to keep him away. However, Batcat has other plans and becomes a father figure to the squirrels. Walters knows his audience well and keeps the suspense going. As the squirrels become more independent, readers will race to the finish line to discover what happens to Nathan and his animal friends. Frequent full-page illustrations and brief chapters will help readers progress through the narrative. Aside from the term eavestrough (a rain gutter), the vocabulary is familiar, and the limited amount of multisyllabic words makes this well suited for readers transitioning to chapter books. Squirrel facts naturally interspersed throughout the story and the author's note enhance the text.
VERDICT A solid addition to early chapter book shelves.

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