Squirrel Hill Tales is the first book written by local dad Matt Fearnley. I was delighted to hear it’s actually a family business with his dad Brian Fearnley doing all of the illustrations for the book! This father and son team have created a truly magical book.
Matt describes it as ‘a play-book covering some big ideas for you and your grown-ups to use as a helpful prompt to read, draw, create and enjoy story-telling together, again.’ I read a copy with my 6 year old son recently and found it utterly charming and delightful.
My son is at the awkward age with reading, when he was learning to read it was very exciting and he was thrilled to be able to start figuring out stories for himself, even reading the info board at the bus stop was novel! But now he can read comfortably he is getting bored with practicing and reading books. Getting him to read his school book is a challenge and usually results in bribery. We’ve tried a few different books from our local library but unless they are about football or Star Wars (neither being my first choice of topic!) he quickly loses interest.
Squirrel Hill Tales was a real breakthrough. After a bit of persuasion we settled down to read it. The print is a bit smaller than he is used to so we took turns at reading, I read most of it with him doing a few special sentences or short paragraphs. The illustrations are fabulous, incredibly detailed but a really fun and edgy style to them. He really enjoyed looking at the characters and scenes while I read and was soon lost in the tales.
Mr and Mrs Squizz, the squirrels, live in a tall tree at the top of Squirrel Hill and the book is about what they see as they watch the world go by. There are various characters, from Serena the Cheerleader to Tugster the Tugboat and Clara the Kindly Cloud, and each character has a short story about them. Each story has a different style and is incredibly captivating, we read a few stories in our first sitting with my son asking for more. The stories are fun for children but are about some very grown up topics and have some great morals and meanings, which gave us things to discuss.
As a parent who has read the Gruffalo thousands of times it was really refreshing and enjoyable for me and great to read something that interested me too! I wanted to read on just as much as my son, and I wanted him to learn some of the lessons in the story and talk about their meanings.
At the end of the book are activities to do, such as drawing a map, colouring a poster and writing a short story, which gave it a fabulous ending as you can join in.
I’d say its suitable for ages 6+, my 6 year old son was put off at first by smaller text than what he’s used to but was soon charmed by the beautiful illustrations and the magical characters.