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Squirrelly Gray and the Awesome Dust Jacket
Article by Scott Tingley, September 29, 2007

Now THAT is a NICE quality dust jacket.

You don't see many reviews that start by talking about the quality of paper used for a book's dust jacket. You certainly don't see it in reviews for books that are any good. Sure, you might see it in a piece where the reviewer has been told write up a book that really stinks and is looking for something good to say (By the way, when opening an awful gift in front of the giver, the correct and foolproof response is for you to enthusiastically say: “Would you look at that! Would you just look at that! Wow. Just look at that.” You will thank me this holiday season).

This is not such a book. This book is as cool as monkeys fighting robots.


The creator of the book, James Kochalka, is an indy comic creator famous for comics like Peanutbutter & Jeremy and…..Monkey vs Robot! As wild and fun as his books are, some are for a youngish audience and others are so far from being for kids it's unreal (I am speaking of his superhero comic – funny, but woah!). I was really pleased to see that he had done a book specifically for kids. I was even more pleased when the book turned out to be good…….and what a dust jacket.

With a dust jacket like that Kochalka could have phoned it in, but no, he went and made something kids would like. The book follows a pattern of rhyming text on the left and a comic page on the right. This allows him to go with his strengths as a comic storyteller, but also to play with language in the longer poetry/text pieces. This is my first exposure to that side of the creator and he does a fine job. The poetry is light, but there seems to be a bit of the edge that is found in the best works for children. The comic pages can be read independently of the text and vice versa – but together the book is a lot more fun.

So, what happens? Well, Suirrelly Gray wiggles away his front teeth, prompting the tooth fairy to come. She gets caught in a spider's web. Gray saves her. There is a magic acorn involved and the thing that helped him get the nut causes him problems with the nut – so, enter a hungry fox! Actually, it all turns out to be a legend. A legend telling the tale of what I will leave for you to discover.

Squirrelly Gray is a must read, must share. It is funny and wacky in the tradition of Jon Scieszka , but completely Kolchalka. Even with a quality dust jacket like that he pulled out all the stops.

This got an immediate two “Read it”s from daughter Mariah. Not bad for a book that just entered my home this afternoon.

Random House Books for Young Readers
Hardcover · Ages 2-7 · August 28, 2007 · $12.99
978-0-375-83975-7 (0-375-83975-5)


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