Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Image result for squirrel girl haleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Shannon & Dean Hale
Marvel, 2017  324 pages
Grades 4-8

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moves from California to suburbia New Jersey where she must start at a new school. This would be tricky for any kid, but is that much worse for one who sports a tail. Doreen is part girl/part squirrel. She can speak squirrel language, climb trees lickety-split, lift many times her own weight, and is as speedy as her furry cousins. Once at the school school things do not go well. The popular crowd completely shuns Doreen and the rest of the school follows their lead. Luckily Doreen finds another girl eating alone. Ana Sophia is deaf and a loner. At first she resists Doreen's friendship, but then gives into her friendly unflappable nature. Other friendships develop from within the squirrel community,  specifically one special squirrel named Tippy Toe who becomes Doreen's partner. Other support emerges from the town's teen "larpers" as well as a clique of graffiti artists. Meanwhile, random acts of vandalism are sweeping through the small town. After an investigation, with some reluctant help from other Avengers, with whom she texts using a phone Tippy Toe helped her "procure", a real villain is pin-pointed named the Micro-Manager. He and his team of robots are set to destroy the town and publicly defeat Squirrel Girl. The villain lures her in battle by kidnapping some of her squirrel friends, as well as a baby that she sits for. Squirrel Girl is unable to defeat Micro-Manager on her own. She will need both her squirrel friends, as well as her new human ones, to save the day.

Based on the Marvel character Squirrel Girl, the Hales have written a novel for young people tracing Doreen's early days as a super hero. Squirrel Girl has been around since the 1990's as a peripheral character in the Marvel Universe, usually barraging Iron Man to take her on as a partner. Her latest incantation, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, penned by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, features Doreen in college in New York City, while fighting crime and saving the day between classes. The Hales take the story backwards to Doreen's adolescence when she first meets Tippy Toe and comes into her own as a crime fighter. I was surprised. I thought the book would be a graphic hybrid, but it contains no illustrations. It is straight text and is substantial. Obviously appealing to fans of superheros, the plot moves quickly and focuses on action over character development. A mystery is added as the reader tries to figure out who the identity of the Micro-Manager. Reflecting the mood of the comics, This novel contains a lot of humor. Footnotes at the bottom of the page offer Doreen's commentary, also a carry-over from the comic original. Tippty Toes gets to narrate several chapters, adding more humor and a different dimension to the story. Squirrel Girl has supportive parents, good friends, and lives in a lifestyle similar to the average American kid. making her abilities seem that much more believable and relatable. I love the New Jersey setting. For such a densely populated state containing a significant population of young readers, not many books are set here. My readers will love this setting and relate to the story all the more. Both boys and girls will love it and it will be an easy sell to graphic novel readers, who may not realize that they just finished a book with no pictures until they close the back cover. 

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