A Squirrel’s Tail – Julian Reisz

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Squirrel’s Tail is a fun picture book with an important message within the pages. Written by a father who wanted to cheer his daughter up after surgeries, Hazel the squirrel shows the strength and resilience that children so often show in these situations unprompted. It also shows the important relationship between children and their family, as well as with others around them who offer support. Here, I have the author for a Q & A to give further insight into how he hopes the book can help others.

1) What was the initial idea behind the book? 

When my daughter was 2, she was diagnosed with DDH (Developmental displacia of the hip). I made up the story initially to cheer her up after a series of surgeries, and help her to focus on the positive outcome we were aiming for. The main themes of the book for children are of hope and joy in the face of adversity. And for parents, it’s really a celebration of the strength and resilience of children, and acknowledging that you would do anything to protect your sick child. For me, a more personal theme was the unique bond between dads and daughters.

2) Is Hazel’s personality inspired by someone you know? 

Hazel is 100% inspired by my daughter. A bright eyed, bushy tailed squirrel constantly bouncing to her next adventure. The end of the book is maybe more how I hope she deals with adversity, accepting that she’s different and nothing holding her back.

3) Why is it important for picture books to show representation of important themes? 

As a parent of three children, I have spent a lot of time reading picture books! There are so many cute and superficial “hospital visit” books out there. I wanted to talk about emotions of pain and dealing with adversity. Some topics are important but difficult to discuss with children or perhaps become philosophical when discussed theoretically. Having a real story with real characters around important themes opens up discussions on a level children can handle. Talking about loss and dealing with pain is difficult. Instead, discussing how a squirrel must have felt when she lost her tail becomes tangible and relatable for a child.

4) Why did you choose squirrels to represent the themes of your story? 

I knew early on that I wanted to use animals in a busy magical forest as metaphors, almost like Aessop’s Fables or La Fontaine. For the metaphor to work, it needed to be an animal known for a particular bodypart. An elephant losing its trunk would have been as dramatic, but perhaps too violent. And it’s also easy to imagine what a squirrel might look like without a tail. Who doesn’t love squirrels?

5)I love the colourful illustrations in the book – how do you think pictures help to tell the story?

The illustrations are so important. I call it a magical forest full of unexpected animals and lollipop trees. Having small surprising details to discover and explore throughout the book helps keep children entertained and interested in the story. I’m so glad to have found the illustrator Alex Beeching, and because of COVID, we’ve worked remotely throughout the whole creation of the book and never met!

6) Will you be continuing Hazel’s adventure in any other books? 

Now that’s the a good question! I have a backlog of other stories that all take place in the Great Forest. I have an important theme I would like to tell another fable about featuring a bear. I could imagine Hazel featuring in some of them as a side character. But I did recently have an idea of a children’s foraging cookbook featuring Hazel! But who knows? Let’s see how the launch of this first book goes first!

I have in fact created an activity pack touching on a lot of the themes above. I developed it with an EYFS teacher to help save time for parents and teachers and help explore some of the themes in the story. It can be downloaded here: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0589/8931/4212/files/Squirrels_Tail_Activity_Pack.pdf?v=1633718520

Like the sound of this book? Buy it here.

Emily x

📚 Book gifted by author.

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