“A powerful story where animals fight for what they believe in!”
ANIMALS BREAKING BOUNDARIES
The Beautiful Treasure that Lives Within the Forest
An ordinary day in the forest home of Shelby F. Squirrel and his good friend, Petra, begins with a beautiful sun-kissed morning, complemented by the pleasing tunes of the melodious forest birds. Without warning, this glorious scene is suddenly disturbed when Shelby and Petra notice the presence of two strange men wandering through the forest with extensive curiosity and wonder. We were stricken with eagerness to understand what their purpose actually was, optimistic that their presence in the forest has good-willed intentions. But does it really?
Initially, the 2 men appear to be merely exploring the parameters of the forest territory in attempts to capture some fascinating, or perhaps intriguing, photographs of the life dwelling within it; however, Shelby and Petra are all too familiar with the forest and everything passing through, therefore, find their presence to be more than odd and peculiarly unusual. Shelby and Petra, being the daring adventurous flying squirrels they are, make the decision to follow the humans’ every move in an effort to find out more information. Ominous blue X’s appear on the trees a few days later. Shelby and Petra seek out the Wise Old Owl, one of the most dependable leaders of counsel in the forest!
Surprisingly, when Shelby informs the Wise Old Owl about the direful ordeal and the blue X’s, he too, is unsure of what, how, and why the men are in the forest, leading Shelby F. Squirrel to propose escalating the dilemma to Charlie, the friendly old farm horse. And boy, is Charlie a haystack of laughter, even though he is practically senile, slow in movement, and monotone in tonality and expression. Charlie, like the Wise Old Owl, also displays a gift for wisdom and knowledge, and they sure are in need of it!
When Charlie learns of the news, he can’t help but find the two men’s invasive presence a bit unnerving and makes it his personal responsibility to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. But this calls for everyone’s eyes and ears to get involved, so they arrange for a meeting involving sundry animals at Charlie’s cousin’s farm where Goldie, a stunning caramel-colored Palomino has some helpful and devastating information to share. One thing we have found when it comes to Eleanor’s brilliant tactics in writing is how she manages to keep you on edge, masterly interweaving suspenseful foreshadowing effects in each chapter that ultimately produce rising action and valuable meaning – quite similar to many familiar classic Disney films and stories.
In this particular scene, Goldie is reluctant to tell her friends what she knows, afraid of breaking their poor innocent hearts. But after Marvin F. Mouse practically forces her to expose what she knows, she recalls seeing the same blue X’s once before where she used to live. She explains how it wasn’t too long after seeing the mysterious blue X’s that all of the beautiful trees were chopped down! Well, this certainly isn’t the news Shelby or any other animal in the forest or on the farm wants to hear. Even so, now that they know what they are possibly up against, they are determined to stop any threat or danger that could inflict harm upon their lives. At this point in the story, things are progressing rapidly!
Fueled with courage and audacity, Shelby, Rusty, Marvin F. Mouse, Goldie, Charlie, and several other farm animals make it their mission to organize the forest animals to help keep a close watch out for anything unusual– as Marvin F. Mouse courageously expels; “we need to be ready to fight for our homes if it comes to that!”. And indeed, the animals are more than prepared!
Considering the elements of storytelling, we believe it is a superb idea for Eleanor to display the emotional attachment the animals possess with the forest, as this is a realistic fact that enhances her story and encourages us to consider animals in a more humanized perspective. This aspect magnifies the pertinence of all animals’ natural habitat to their livelihood and well-being and also teaches a younger audience that even though animals are not human, they can still feel…and think! Very important! In essence, one thing you wouldn’t put past animals after reading this book (if you already have) is intelligence! And now it is time for all of the animals to show off their forest wits! This includes Sultan, the fearless and courageous rooster, and some other friends from the farm. Shelby explains everything that is happening to Sultan and his heart is instantly instilled with confidence when he hears the triumph and victory in Sultan’s voice, as he assuredly declares; “We can’t let the forest be cut!” and “there are ways to keep that from happening!” Of course, at this point you can’t wait to find out – how??? What do the animals have strong and powerful enough to keep the powerful humans away? Well, their first ingenious strategy is to work jointly in attempts to stir up some serious commotion. Their goal is to produce enough madness to deter the humans from doing anything further to the forest, and in the words of Charlie; they are really declaring war!
In this chapter, we genuinely admire Eleanor’s savvy way of teaching her audience about the animals she is including in the story. For example, in one segment, Petra gives Shelby a lesson about skunks when she says to him; “The skunks aren’t afraid of us! They only spray if they are threatened”; indeed, a factual statement (if you aren’t already familiar with skunks and their natural defense mechanisms). It is the small, but major implementations such as this, that add great detail and an ‘educational’ touch to the story in an amazingly creative way, another classic signature of the author that captivates the reader(s)!
As we continue in the story, it is now time for the animals to put their plan into action! And with a pack of skunks prepared to release their harsh odor, expert robin dive-bombers above in the trees, furious flapping swans, busy, busy biting mice, and an army of various other animals, their chances are looking rather victorious!
The next day, when the 2 men return to the forest, they follow through with everything discussed in the meeting. Merry Robin manages to fluster the men while Billy Goat manages to knock one of them right on his behind! This sends the men racing back to their truck and away from the forest for the day! Their plan has proven to work. Whether or not they are gone for good remains a lingering question in the back of Shelby’s mind, but life, at least for the moment, resumes back to normality, giving them all the opportunity to observe, appreciate, and soak in the forest’s tranquil beauty! That is, until the truck makes a second appearance, and this time, instead of blue X’s, the men are spraying yellow X’s on the young tree trunks, which is nothing more than a signal for war time for the animals! So, as the men are spraying, Marvin and his relatives make their way through the bottom of the invaders’ jeans and gnaw away at their calves, causing the humans to flee right back to their truck – and boy, are they met with a vile and repugnant odor, thanks to the skunk volunteers!
It is important to note that Shelby really stands out in this book with distinct features of courage, leadership, and enthused passion, he was definitely our favorite character. Moreover, though the incident affects the animals, emotionally (rightfully so!), it is undeniable that their earnest teamwork is harmoniously uniting the entire forest, which we found to be fantastically powerful and inspirational! This particular theme/idea is a world-wide vision necessary to sustaining all forms of life. Great point to embed within the storyline, Eleanor!
Now, back to the action! Even though the men are gone, the animals can’t help but wonder what they are to face next if the humans return for a third time. And indeed, they return…this time with even more humans! Cameramen, a news anchor, and more people crowd the forest. Eyes grow big and shock is instant as the animals set sight on the “frightful monster wobbling precariously atop a huge flatbed truck”, and to make matters even worse, it is accompanied by a miniature version, too! First, cameras and humans, now a monstrous leviathan? What’s next? The mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rexes (tree-cutting machines) are surely bigger than the animals. So, the animal troops, being the bravehearts of the forest, proceed to execute their mission of sabotage, pouring their zealous hearts and minds into ruining the sinister machines as best they can. Apparently, the animals’ well thought-out schemes are only drawing the interest of the humans more, because with every victory accomplished, the TV News Crew and more humans return, seemingly with an even deeper interest than before! And when the men try to start up the Tyrannosaurus Rex, they find it deliberately ruined beyond measure and their means of transportation smothered in disgusting skunk slime! After witnessing the destruction, one of the people assertively admits that there is something definitely strange about the forest…and the animals that reside in it.
In this very moment, someone else notices the owls up above perfectly perched in the tree, almost as if they are spying on the entire scene! An even more concentrated focus on their surroundings forces all of them to behold the other farm animals lurking in the midst of trees and bushes! The very thought of this would be disconcerting, we imagine. Distraught and bewildered, one of the men collides with Billy, provoking him to charge straight for the frightened man! But before Billy can get the chance to attack, Shelby pleads for him to refrain, finally taking into account the advice of Charlie, who had previously expressed the fact that the animals should have confirmed, first, what the 2 men are actually up to before taking anything further; for in all reality, as much as they all felt threatened by the humans’ presence, none of them, not even the Old Wise Owl, was technically sure if the people’s intentions were good or bad.
With this in mind, they all agree to steer clear of the people and the mechanical gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex until they see something that really gives them a reason to charge. And sure enough, the humans give them reason, and a good one at that! When the animals spot men with chainsaws uncaringly sawing away at trees, Billy doesn’t hesitate to send one of the tree-choppers flying right into the air! We couldn’t help but to find some humor in this! Furthermore, to intensify this, when the men run for escape, they’re confronted by many more furious animals of the farm and forest, driving them away. Mission accomplished, again!
The next day, the men return, but only to collect their mechanical monster machines. None of the animals has seen the TV truck or the humans since the last dramatic spectacle occurred. Could it be true? That the forest is actually back to normal, at last? Well, we won’t speak too soon…because it isn’t too long before the TV truck, with a fleet of vehicles following behind, returns to the forest. The anxiety, panic, and dread flooding both Petra’s and Shelby’s hearts is unbelievable, but in the blink of an eye becomes vigorously shadowed by the all too familiar laugh of Charlie.
As Shelby inches closer to the area of chattering and noise where he hears Charlie, not only does he (and the other animals) discover Charlie, safe and comfortable with the crowd, but also several other farm animals right along with the farmer! Instant relief falls upon them and we are just as relieved as Shelby when the story reveals there was no harm or damage to be done in the forest.
The story unfolds that the true reason for the intense commotion and uprising in the forest was due to the hazardous decision to begin cutting down the trees, and the opposition conservancy groups expressed in reaction to this objectionable plan. Thankfully, the uproar of the people along with the media and news coverage prevents this from happening. So, with confirmation that the forest is safe, the animals can finally enjoy a peace of mind -and a peaceful night!
Author Eleanor Lawrie finishes this remarkable animal escapade with an exceptional scene that pays tribute to the great flying squirrels, like Shelby and Petra, by having humans implant a post board into the ground looking towards the road for all those passing by to see! But what the sign actually says is the best part! Shelby and friends gather round this wondrous post with curious eyes, mesmerized at the inscribed letters that read, “Flying Squirrel Sanctuary”, simply wonderful!
In summary, it is nearly impossible to deny the delight one receives from reading the extraordinary adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel and friends, by Author Eleanor Lawrie! Her work consistently evokes admiration and the concrete detail and sheer layers that she carefully uses to interconnect each chapter to the next are flawless! It is also extremely relevant for us to note the impeccable presentation which she distributes in her writing, effectively stirring up emotions by use of invigorating power words, lucid and realistic descriptions, well-established characters with real personalities, and influencing narration; for Eleanor proves to be efficient in executing storytelling strategies that ensure an engaging experience for children! We would recommend this book to all and hope that everyone has a chance to enjoy this active, amusing, entertaining, and intellectual read, as our audience has! This story of teamwork, hope, and courage will inspire you to do more than just stand up for what you believe in, it motivates you to be prepared, brave, and take action! And that is exactly what Shelby F. Squirrel and his amazing forest friends do! Way to go and kudos!
****What a great story for animal lovers and also environmentalists!****