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Earl the Squirrel


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About the Author

Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, in 1908. At an early age, he received a trumpet as a gift from his father. He practiced obsessively and eventually joined a California dance band. After graduating from high school, he ventured to New York City to study art under the tutelage of Joan Sloan and Harry Wickey at the Art Students' League. He managed to support himself throughout his schooling by playing his trumpet evenings, in nightclubs and at weddings.

Gradually, he eased into making a living sketching impressions of Broadway shows for The New York Times and The Herald Tribune. This shift was helped along, in no small part, by a rather heartbreaking incident: he lost his trumpet. One evening, he was so engrossed in sketching people on the subway, he simply forgot it was sitting on the seat beside him. This new career turned out to be a near-perfect fit for Don, though, as he had always loved the theater. He was introduced to the world of children's literature when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate several books. Soon after, he began to write and illustrate his own books, a career he settled into comfortably and happily. Through his writing, he was able to create his own theater: "I love the flow of turning the pages, the suspense of what's next. Ideas just come at me and after me. It's all so natural. I work all the time, long into the night, and it's such a pleasure. I don't know when the time ends. I've never been happier in my life!" Don died in 1978, after a long and successful career. He created many beloved characters in his lifetime, perhaps the most beloved among them a stuffed, overall-wearing bear named Corduroy. Don Freeman was the author and illustrator of many popular books for children, including Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, and the Caldecott Honor Book Fly High, Fly Low.


Never before published, this breezy, droll tale from the creator of Corduroy focuses on a rite of passage for an ingenuous young squirrel. When Earl's mother announces, "It is high time you went out and learned how to find acorns on your own," the carefree fellow instead pays a visit to his friend, a girl named Jill, who gives him an acornAand a nutcracker to open it. Earl's indignant mother says, in what becomes a refrain, "Earl, come in here this instant. I want to speak to you!" She admonishes her offspring for being spoiled and insists he return the nutcracker. Jill then gives Earl another presentAa red scarf she made for her doll. After another rebuke from his mother, Earl fashions a sack from his scarf and goes in search of acorns. Freeman uses his signature scratchboard style, with fine tooling in black and white that plays up both the red scarf (the only additional color, which underscores the item's pivotal role in the tale) and the jet-black night into which Earl ventures on his quest. The Great Horned Owl and Conrad the bull act as key players in Earl's mission, and the comical, nearly calamitous string of events leaves the lucky squirrel with plenty of acorns to make his mother proud. Freeman serves up some laugh-out-loud images, as well as some affecting ones, in a tale well worthy of publication at last. Ages 4-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

PreS-Gr 2-A posthumous publication of a manuscript by the creator of Corduroy (Viking, 1968). Earl's mother thinks that his friend Jill (a little girl) is spoiling her son when she gives him an acorn, a nutcracker, and her doll's red scarf, so Earl sets out to prove that he can find acorns on his own. The red scarf becomes a sack, a hat, and a bullfighter's cape, and the young squirrel comes back with a harvest of acorns and returns the scarf. The scarlet scarf leaps out of Freeman's otherwise black-and-white scratchboard illustrations. The pictures are full of energy and detail, and Earl is both cheeky and endearing. Kids will laugh when Conrad the bull gets stuck in the tree as Earl indignantly and fearlessly snatches the precious scarf from his horns, only to be plonked on the head by an acorn. The story is gentle, innocent, and funny, and although it was written many years ago, Freeman's ability to capture the artless adventures of childhood is of the moment.-Jane Barrer, formerly at Washington Square Village Creative Steps, New York City Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

H Freeman serves up a tale well worthy of publication. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Children will love hearing this story of courage, determination, and self-actualization... (Children s Literature)

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