Earl the Squirrel and his group of furry friends are back for another adventure.
The popular fictional rodent is the creation of Wyoming writer Susan Wright, who in 2021 wrote a book about inclusivity based on her real-life encounter with a black, tail-less squirrel that Wright saw while she was sitting in her lakeside cottage just north of Camlachie.
After getting an extremely positive reception while visiting local schools and telling Earl’s tales to youth, Wright and illustrator Brenda Henderson-Kennedy have just put the finishing touches on an environmentally-themed sequel. It’s entitled Earl the Squirrel and Friends – It’s good to plant a tree!
While the first book, Earl the Squirrel and Friends – It’s good to be different, focused on the importance of diversity, friendship and overcoming adversity, Wright’s new book tells a lesson-filled, rhyming story that highlights the many benefits that trees bring to our world. The sequel explores concepts such as how trees keep the air and water clean, how they provide shelter for animals, how they keep the planet cool and prevent erosion in terms that children can easily understand.
Wright said she was inspired to write the book after reading the news about the ongoing effects of climate change.
“The first book was quite successful and … I’m kind of interested in having young kids learn, to teach them lessons about our world,” she said. “So while the first book was about being different … I thought with all the talk about climate change, I’d write a book about the environment. You worry about your grandkids and what they’re going to face in the future.
“I tried to simplify it by talking about Earl finding an acorn and planting a tree and talking about the many benefits of trees, to let the kids learn about the subject,” Wright added. “I think it’s timely, with COP27 going on and all the concerns that youth have about climate change.”
Wright again employed the services of graphic designer Brenda Henderson-Kennedy, who provided engaging illustrations for the 28-page book.
“I did a lot of research online, especially for this second book in terms of how to (visually) explain things like erosion and acid rain,” she said. “I went back a few times … but I have to say that the second book was a little more intricate than the first one because it was deeper than the first book and I had to convey.
“It was a lot of fun – while the thought of what could happen in the future could be very dark, I tried to make it a little lighter than that. The characters are so much fun to work with,” Henderson-Kennedy continued. “When we saw the final product, it was definitely worth it.”
Kids in Lambton County have definitely taken to Earl and his friends Pearl, Merle and Berle, Wright said. Not only have they been interested in Earl’s story, but they’ve equally responsive to the stuffed versions of the squirrels, which are also now on sale.
“The kids absolutely loved it,” she said. “Brenda and I did several readings at different schools in the area. And the kids were enthralled – they were all so well behaved. After we read the book I explained how I became an author, Brenda explained how the book was illustrated and then we took out the stuffies, and the kids couldn’t wait to play with them.”
“Just recently Sue read both books at Aberarder Central School and the students loved the preview of the second book,” Henderson-Kennedy added. “They picked up on it and had really great questions about the environment afterwards. It was amazing to hear those sorts of questions from such young students.”
Wright will be doing readings of and selling both books at Sarnia’s Christmas Market in the former Tepperman’s location at Lambton Mall on Dec. 9 from 5:30 to 10 pm and on Dec. 10 from 3 to 10 pm
Earl the Squirrel and Friends – It’s good to plant a tree is also available for purchase at Sarnia’s The Book Keeper, Petrolia’s ArtZ Den or online at Amazon. Stuffies are on sale at the ArtZ Den, individually for $20 or a pack of four with a specially-made nest for $60.