Growing Bookworms Newsletter: April 8, 2008
The Lost Books

Scaredy Squirrel Blog Tour: How the Scaredy Stories Work at Different Age Levels


Today I am pleased to welcome Mélanie Watt for the third stop on the Scaredy Squirrel Blog Tour. I've been a fan of Scaredy since the first book, Scaredy Squirrel, and I liked the second, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, even better. I haven't had a chance to review the third book, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, yet, but I have read it, and I promise that fans will not be disappointed. Without further ado, here is my interview with Scaredy's creator, Mélanie Watt:

I have a young friend who is nearly one. His parents read Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend to him every night (a gift from his Auntie Jen), and he has a particular page on which he likes to give Scaredy a little kiss. He doesn't seem old enough to have Scaredy's fears of the unknown, so there's something else that's resonating with him. I think it's Scaredy's endearing expression, that timid, toothy smile. And I know that the humour is what works for me as an adult, and that some of the humour is kid-friendly, and some of it is more appealing to adults.

Mélanie: That's SO sweet but I absolutely need to know what page…I'm curious!.

My young friend's Dad reports: "the page that (our son) never fails to kiss everytime we turn to it is the layout on pages 5-6 from "Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend." And his mom (a dentist) also appreciates the dental references and dedication of the book to a dentist." Yes, Scaredy is a big hit in that household.

Continuing with the interview, what aspects of the books do you think particularly appeal to very young children? To preschoolers?

Mélanie: The colourful cartoons and the simplicity and the cute little squirrel has something hopefully to so with it!

To elementary school children?

Mélanie: I think they like the pacing of the book and how the story is told through graphics and cartoons. I have been told by kids that they enjoy when Scaredy is capable of doing braver things. They like the humour and I heard that the Playing dead page is really popular! I think they can relate to Scaredy because he's discovering the BIG world and doing his best to deal with the unknown and Scaredy's not perfect.

To parents?

Mélanie: I hear it's the humour and the interaction they get while they read with the kids. Also I think the book has many levels and it pokes fun at our society and exaggerates our sometimes excessively overprotective behaviours.

I would also like to mention that surprisingly teens are picking up the Scaredy books as well. There seems to be a ¨cool¨ factor about Scaredy. And grandparents are writing to me as well! Scaredy seems to have captured the hearts of many age groups!

Is there a perfect age range for a reader of the Scaredy Squirrel books? If I'm going to buy the books as a gift, what's the very best age for Scaredy appreciation?

Mélanie: I'm not sure what to say, but I think it's between 3 and 8, but as I was saying I am getting feedback from people from all ages!

Does it just vary by the individual?

Mélanie: It does. And I think that's great!

I've noticed that some of the vocabulary used in the books is actually fairly advanced (like when Scaredy contemplates "venturing" into the unknown. Have you seen any difference in the response to Scaredy from boys vs. from girls? Or are Scaredy's fears universal?

Mélanie: I think they are universal. And the response has been great from both girls and boys. They write to me with story ideas for the next Scaredy adventures and it's fun to see how imaginative they are and how they want Scaredy to face up to new fears.

Did you consciously set out to write books that would be appealing to parents, as well as to their children, or is that a happy side-effect?

Mélanie: Well, when I start writing a book, I try to make it appeal to me first (I'm 32). I want to feel like the story is saying something about a topic I feel is interesting and that I can relate to. I also keep in mind that kids enjoy images that they can discover as they read over and over. I like to keep my texts simple and light and provide drawings that can fill in the blanks or that kids can interpret in their own way.

I adore the bold lines, and the personality conveyed in even the tiny icons (like the killer bees and the germs) of these books. How do you think that your background as a graphic artist has helped you to create books that appeal to such a wide range of readers?

Mélanie: My design background plays a HUGE part in my work. And in my opinion, being both an author and illustrator is pretty much the only way I can make my ideas come to life. When I start working on a new book, I start with visuals and sketches and build the story in my mind, then I actually write then rework my drawings and pages to allow good pacing. I go back and forth with the text and images to get the perfect merge.

I thought that Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend was especially suited to kids about to start school for the first time (whether preschool or kindergarten). Have you heard from parents who have used the book in this way? Is it finding a place in classrooms?

Mélanie: I have and the message I hear from kids with the Makes a Friend book is that it's about understanding that not everyone is perfect and not to judge a book by its cover and that friendships can be made in unexpected ways.

I hear Scaredy is a big hit in classrooms especially for writing activities. I think that the fact that the Scaredy stories are broken down into graphics and pros and cons and maps help kids kick start their imagination when it comes to writing their own story. If you think about it, you do need and plan when it comes to writing stories and Scaredy is a good example to inspired kids because it's a simple and direct storytelling style.

I really love Scaredy. I want to pick him up and hug him. Are there any plans for merchandising, like a Scaredy stuffed animal? I would certainly buy one (well, probably two, one for me, and one for my one-year-old friend).

Mélanie: I would LOVE that too! I always imagined a stuffed Scaredy toy Playing Dead and you could just leave him lying around in a room somewhere! There is talk about merchandising and stuff… I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

He's left his tree. He's made a friend. He's been to the beach. What can we expect next from Scaredy Squirrel? Will he ever find romance?

Mélanie: Who knows but as a kid I would probably think…GROSS!! In the next adventure I will focus on the nighttime fears. That's all I can say and I can't wait to get started!!

Thanks, Mélanie, for this reminder of how much I love Scaredy.

Please visit Scaredy Squirrel on his other blog tour stops:

Monday, 4/7
Big A, Little a
Featured Topic:  An Interview with Scaredy Squirrel

Tuesday, 4/8
Book Buds
Featured Topic: Scaredy Squirrel past, present and future

Wednesday, 4/9
Jen Robinson's Book Page (here)
Featured Topic: How the Scaredy stories work at different age levels

Thursday, 4/10  [2 blogs]
Hip Librarians Book Blog   
Featured Topic: Talking with Mélanie Watt about writing

Metrowest News
Featured Topic: Kids' questions for Scaredy Squirrel

Friday, 4/11
Featured Topic: Mélanie Watt talks about Scaredy Squirrel

This blog tour was organized by Raab Associates. I hope that you'll stop by all of the stops on the tour. Scaredy and I would love to see you.


(Images (c) Melanie Watt. Used with permission)

Text © 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.