Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1993)
From a Newbery Honor winner, the chronicle of a narrowly averted war between a society of usually peaceable squirrels and the humans who live nearby. Normally oblivious to each other, the two intersect when Amber, a spirited 12-year-old who's run away because her father smacked her for being upset at TV violence, takes refuge in a tree. She's fascinated by the squirrels' evident intelligence and chittering language; the squirrel Woodbine returns her interest, but others panic at the sight of the alien "invader" and flock to evict her. Noticing the uproar, Amber's pugnacious dad fires into it; horrified that he's almost shot his daughter, he urges neighbors to help exterminate the "mangy little pests." Meanwhile, the squirrels' elders are supplanted by a militaristic demagogue who vows to destroy the menacing humans; only Woodbine and two friends, plus Amber and her brother, imagine that the other species may be worth preserving. In separate, overlapping adventures told in alternating chapters, each brings their side back to sanity just as the conflict is escalating; and Woodbine and Amber--unbeknownst to each other--resolve to learn more about their different species. The message is delivered more directly than in The Lampfish of Twill, while the beautifully crafted language is less lyrical, more humorous here. A deftly plotted fantasy with amusing characterizations; a telling allegory of the roots of violence in ignorance. 1993, Orchard, $15.95; PLB $15.99. Starred Review. © 1993 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Carol Fox (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January 1994 (Vol. 47, No. 5))
For generations, two towns exist, top by bottom, and no one in either town knows anything about the inhabitants of the other until Amber, a human child from Lower Forest, spends the night in a treetop inhabited by mink-tailed squirrels of the Upper Forest. Considering the child an alien and an invader, the alarmed squirrels devise a plan to harass Amber. Meanwhile, her family, particularly her father, try to figure out why she has run away again. "Amber says people have started to like killing each other. . . . She says she can hardly stand it anymore," notes her younger brother Wendell. "That's a wonderful reason to run away at five-thirty on Sunday morning," answers Mr. Padgett. The town goes out looking for her, Mr. Padgett notices a lot of squirrels and gets his shotgun, and the battle is on. The incidents of escalating violence based upon misunderstanding, mistakes, and misinformation are chronicled in alternating chapters from the point of view of the peacemakers in each society: young Woodbine of Upper Forest and Amber and her brother from Lower Forest. The plot careens from event to event and carries the young peacemakers, the addlepated adults of both societies, and the reader to an exciting ending. Lisle has created a world of innocence marked with heartache, truth infused with absurdity, and wisdom relinquished to recklessness-all in the guise of animal fantasy. R--Recommended. (c) Copyright 1994, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1993, Jackson/Orchard, 150p, $15.99 and $15.95. Grades 4-6.
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