From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4–Floy, nicknamed Squirrel, lives in the Yosemite Valley with her parents who own and operate a hotel. Her father hires John Muir as a handyman, and his knowledge of the animals, plants, and geology of the region captivates the feisty girl. He spends hours outdoors with her, showing her how to examine insects under a magnifying glass and to recognize glacier trails. But his naive, good humor and rugged, good looks also capture the attention of visitors. A rift develops between John and his boss, so the naturalist decides to move on. Squirrel is devastated but somewhat mollified when he shows her his special mountainside perch, where he assures her she will have her "best thoughts." The afterword explains how this fictionalized retelling of an actual relationship reveals much about the compelling founder of the Sierra Club. Both his gentle personality and steely determination to see his beliefs recognized by his peers come through clearly. On the other hand, Squirrel seems persistently petulant and often downright rude; the abrupt conclusion leaves readers wondering about this rather unlikable heroine. McCully's sure watercolors capture the stunning natural beauty of the area and provide a majestic backdrop for the small figure of Squirrel. This offering is best used to introduce Muir to budding naturalists or to supplement geology and conservation units.–Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ
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K-Gr. 3. Once again, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner Mirette on the High Wire
(1992) makes a wild, small girl the center of stirring picture-book historical fiction. Floy "Squirrel" Hutchings, six, has always lived in the Yosemite Valley. In 1868, when John Muir finds a job in the hotel owned by Floy's father, the fierce, lonely kid defies the newcomer. But Muir's love for the natural world is contagious, and soon he's teaching Floy how to look closely at the rocks, trails, animals, birds, and plants around her. McCully's beautiful, double-page watercolor landscapes, many in strong shades of green and brown, show and tell how the great conservationist helps Squirrel discover the amazing world where she lives, from the tiniest ant to the towering mountains and valleys formed by glaciers. In an afterword, McCully talks about Muir's later work (he helped create Yosemite National Park and founded the Sierra Club) and about Floy's short life. The contrast between the child's "glowering loneliness" and the rich solitude she finds in nature will move young wilderness lovers profoundly. A bibliography is appended. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved