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BOOKS: So many squirrels — on skis

“Squirrels on Skis” offers a whimsical look at the mania created when too many squirrels start hitting the slopes. (Submitted photo)

By Jean Patrick

Republic Book Columnist

“Nobody knew How the mania grew. First there was one, And then there were two.” “Squirrels on Skis,” by J. Hamilton Ray, is about — you guessed it — squirrels on skis. And not just one or two of them. They swish into town “all dressed for play,/ Eighty-five squirrels/ and more on the way!” They swoop through the streets, along rooftops and down the church steeple. In their frenzy, they knock over trash cans and snowmen, creating squirrel havoc. A town meeting is called. The pest-control guy is consulted. A vacuum is proposed. But not everyone wants the squirrels exterminated. What should be done?

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Meanwhile, Sally Sue Breeze sees another problem. The squirrels have grown too thin from nonstop skiing — and from not eating.

Like a detective, Sally gets to the root of the problem. She heads to the forest where she finds an abandoned popsicle stick factory, an unscrupulous rabbit and a huge pile of acorns.

The story continues with twists and turns until its brilliantly satisfying ending. Squirrels and townspeople are happy, if not overjoyed. The bad guy (the rabbit) is reformed.

Author J. Hamilton Ray writes in a Dr. Seuss style, combining unexpected rhymes with a predictable beat. Yet he also adds an element of mystery and investigation. As a result, young readers have the satisfaction of following a thickening plot.

The illustrations of Pascal Lameitre heighten the understanding of the story and its unique humor. By the end, it seems perfectly believable to see squirrels wearing knee pads while swooping down the slopes.

“Squirrels on Skis” is the newest addition to the “Beginner Book” series. The first book in the series it “The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss.

“Squirrels on Skis.” By J. Hamilton Ray. Illustrated by Pascal Lameitre. Random House. 2013. 65 pp.