Flying Squirrel Stowaways: From Nova Scotia to Boston
|December 13, 2017||Posted by admin under Canadian, Children's Lit, Christmas, Picture Book|
Publication date: August 2017
I read The Flying Squirrel Stowaways to my four-year-old twice. Once when we first received the book around late October and once tonight, just an hour or so before sitting down to review this book (December 12). In between these readings, I have seen her look at the pictures in this book on her own, without the context of the words.
The first time I read this story to her, she liked it, smiled, nodded, and went on her merry little way afterwards—pretty much the same reaction I get after every story. Her mind doesn’t tend to linger on what just happened—she’s more interested in what is going to happen next. What book next, Mommy? What story next? What can I play with next? (You get the idea.)
But tonight was different. It may have been that this was the second time she heard the story. It may have also been that before I read her this story, I read her another one that centred on the Boston–Nova Scotia Christmas tree connection. You see, every December for the past 2-3 years, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for me to read a story most nights, by the glow of the Christmas tree lights, from A Maritime Christmas Treasury: Stories, Songs, and Poems to Celebrate the Season (side note: I reviewed this book three years ago). This is a beautiful collection of winter and holiday-themed stories…super family friendly and just the perfect cozy factor to wind down another busy December day.
It’s the second week of December, when all things Christmas and holiday are in full swing. Our tree is up and decorated, the Christmas parties have started, and my children’s excitement levels are off the radar. As a way to transition into a calming evening routine (ha ha ha), tonight, I’d picked out the story “Love from Katie,” a feel-good tale about a little girl named Katie and her family’s involvement delivering the annual Christmas tree from Nova Scotia to Boston. Since the reading level is more advanced than The Flying Squirrel Stowaways, there’s more detail given explaining why this annual tradition exists. The stories in this collection are longer than your average picture book…probably taking me around 10 minutes to read. I wasn’t quite sure how much of the tale my four-year-old retained until I picked up The Flying Squirrel Stowaways afterwards. When she heard me say “Boston” and “Nova Scotia,” her little eyes lit up and she said, “That was in the other story!”
I’m a history geek, and so engaging children in history via a story warms my little heart. Neither “Love from Katie” nor The Flying Squirrel Stowaways get too gritty about the details of the Halifax Explosion, but they do mention people getting hurt, homes being lost, and how Boston sent doctors and nurses to Halifax to help. The tree is to say thank you. This is all the details children need to know at this age, but it opens their minds to exploring this part of history in further detail as they age.
The Flying Squirrel Stowaways centres around two flying squirrels (unnamed), and, as the name of the book suggests, how they ended up travelling from a forest in Cape Breton to Boston Commons via a chosen spruce. Simons doesn’t limit the story to the squirrels’ adventure, however, as crowds of people—both in Nova Scotia sending the tree off and in Boston, welcoming the tree—become part of the story, allowing for a narrative about why this tradition exists.
My four-year-old thought the squirrels were “silly” (I tend to agree, since most squirrels are), and she thought it was funny that the guard did not spy the squirrels in the tree upon inspecting it at the border. Her favourite illustration was the lit up Christmas tree and the squirrels reaching their new home.
As a parent, I absolutely recommend this story. It’s the perfect blend of a feel-good cozy Christmas story and the start of a very important history lesson. The history is woven throughout the story, though, so as to keep a young audience engaged. Plus, the more you read this, the more your child will pick up. The first time I read this story to my daughter, I’m honestly not sure how much of the history lesson she picked up, but she was certainly listening and understanding more of it during subsequent reads.
It’s a busy time of the year. One filled with excitement, anticipation, non-stop activities, and an unyielding supply of sugar…this combination often results in overexcited and wound-up children. Any story that can help parents calm down these tiny humans is appreciated! What I really liked about this book is that it prompts discussion. It’s also a read that you don’t have to race through. I often stopped and asked questions, pausing the narrative itself. We searched for the squirrels hiding in the tree, we talked about how tall the tree is and if it would fit in our house (it won’t), and we explored where PEI is on the map at the end of the book in relation to where the tree came from and where it was going. I believe that the more you read this book, the more children will pick up, learn, and retain.
The illustrations (also created by Simons) are stunning. Like paintings, really. And vivid enough to hold the attention of my active preschooler while I read the accompanying words.
I’m all for books that bring history alive and teach children about things that took place in “real life,” and Marijke Simons has most certainly achieved this magical blend of entertaining story plus history lesson in this adorable festive tale.
For more information about this book or to learn how to get your very own copy, visit the publisher’s website here.