Random House Graphic continues its rollout of graphic novels for young readers and the books continue to be great additions to libraries anywhere and everywhere. Mika Song, the children’s writer and illustrator who likes to make stories about sweetly funny outsiders returns with another book of our favorite trouble-making squirrels, Norma and Belly! In this sequel to this first graphic novel outing, Donut Feed the Squirrels, the two friends find themselves on a new adventure to rescue a loved one from an apple orchard in another book that is killing it with the puns: Apple of My Pie.
The story is simple but engaging enough: Gramps, the elder squirrel everyone adores, is out and about for a day of fun in the farmer’s market and accidentally finds himself on a truck! A rescue mission is created to rescue him and it takes the squirrels out of their comfort zone, out the park they live in, and to a new place: an apple orchard! Norma, Belly, and friends ready themselves to save him and learn so much along the way!
Mika Song’s unique artwork should intrigue young readers with how she incorporates shapes throughout in a crafty way. One of the opening pages reveals that this book was “drawn with pencils, sumi brushes, sumi ink and watercolor on watercolor paper.” This could serve to be thought-provoking to those reading and help their young minds conceptualize what graphic novels can and do look like.
There are a lot of fun visuals and pages in Apple of My Pie that will make those reading along laugh: how the glasses obviously meant for a human are hilariously perched on the nose of Gramps, the older squirrel. The assembly line for the apples at the farm’s factory that certain characters in the book find themselves on will make for laughs as our squirrels find themselves in for a bit of fun that has the same energy as an amusement park ride.
Readers will see critical thinking and problems solving on the fly in action on the pages: these animals can’t read, or drive a car–how will they get the info and transportation they need? Who do they know in their circles that have these skill sets? Where do the critters need to be to get from point A to point B? Who will come to their rescue when it looks like they will be in danger?
At the end of the book, we learn that while everyone’s work matters, so do their hearts and their motivations. A rescue mission to save someone against all odds means employing everyone and everything available not only to save the day but gain something sweet that’s shared with everyone. The book is fast-paced yet big on laughs and small moments that will make you cheer and smile. Mika Song gives us the same formula that worked in the first book of the series and makes this sequel shine in a way that makes me cherish this book as much as the last. While the book is for little ones in the preschool and to third-grade levels, it surely has the potential to also be loved by older readers like parents, educators, and librarians for the wholesome plot and funny dialogue.
For a graphic novel inspired by the squirrels in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park, Norma and Belly’s new tale of mischief is easily a book that can be read in one sitting or several. While I’d suggest picking up the first book to have and own, the squirrely duo and friends’ adventures are still fun to read and still accessible without a whole lot of backstory if you read Apple of My Pie first.
Apple of My Pie is available now, wherever books are sold.
Apple of My Pie
Funny, lighthearted adventures of two squirrel friends that can serve as a great pick for the bookshelf of a child’s first graphic novels. Young readers in the four to the eight-year range will enjoy the silliness and sweet satisfaction in this sequel that can be read as a stand-alone book.