As well as being a sweet and charming story about friendship, honesty and forgiveness, it’s also full of facts about the eating and living habits of many woodland creatures. Author Emily Dodd, who has previously published other wildlife-themed works such as Ollie and the Otter and The Grouse and the Mouse, collaborates with Italian illustrator Giulia Cregut to bring the story and its environment to life.
At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to our protagonists, Charlie and Rosie. The two red squirrels are the best of friends, and one day they are out playing together when Charlie gets peckish. Rosie leads him to where she keeps her secret stash of nuts – only to find that someone else has beaten them to it and eaten the lot. In order to find the thief, Charlie and Rosie become Crime Squirrel Investigators, and they set off to solve the case.
Throughout the story, we are shown the different diets of some of the other creatures whom Charlie and Rosie share their habitat with, in particular how they eat their hazelnuts – if they do at all. The way the shells are broken is the key to the squirrels’ investigation, and when the prime suspects are shown to have different methods from the guilty party it leads to a twist in the tale.
As well as some clever and humorous writing from the author, Cregut’s illustrations are full of bright colour and stunning, painstaking detail. The backgrounds mostly consist of greens, golds and browns, offset by bright blue skies and a rainbow of different forest berries punctuating the borders in places.
While the story is fun and full of clever facts about the animals of the forest, ultimately the story is about friendship and honesty. The revelation of the thief’s identity at the end and the subsequent falling out between Charlie and Rosie leads to an ultimately satisfying conclusion between the two, and they realise how much their friendship with one another matters.
A sweet and cleverly written story that is sure to delight children again and again.
Crime Squirrel Investigators is out on 1st May, published by Little Door Books.