Earlier this year in March, Random House Graphic gave us all a sneak peek of the second wave of graphic novels for younger readers. That was the month of March which now in hindsight, feels like a lifetime ago. I read up on several titles that looked like such fun books to read and mentioned a few of them here. A kid with a love of fairy tales, tea parties with a touch of the supernatural, and even a story about two crafty squirrels, that are best friends on the biggest mission of their lives.
Norma and Belly are living their best lives as squirrely best friends who seem to live life to the fullest in a big tree that houses all the squirrels nearby. Ever optimistic, even obstacles like burned breakfast or bad customer service can’t keep them down when a food truck offering up something most delectable and delicious that they have never seen before appears nearby. After some observation, a plan is launched and all the pieces and players matter!
Mika Song’s artwork is unique and should intrigue young readers. One of the opening pages reveals that this book was “drawn with pencil, sumi brushes, sumi ink and watercolor on watercolor paper.” Placed there to possibly serve as a note of the creative process, it could also open up the questions and discussions even before the book is started–like what is a sumi brush? How is it different from a regular paintbrush? It could also serve to open up eyes to the expectations of what graphic novels may look like–not every book will have a “digital art” look to them and that is okay. Perhaps Song’s artwork could also serve as an inspiration to young artists as well.
With a story that has little heroes with a Robin Hood like mindset, this read touches upon following your heart’s desire, the importance of planning ahead, and the value of teamwork–because we all know that TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK. Mika Song’s efforts are presented with whimsical spirit and overall, it is just a fun book. At 112-pages and five chapters in all, this book is a great contender for readers in the five to eight years old age category who want an entertaining read. For parents, caregivers, librarians, and educators who want to ease themselves into the huge pool of age appropriate graphic novels for young readers, this is surely in the right direction.
At the end of the book, we learn that success is perhaps one of the sweetest victories you can obtain and that everyone’s work matters. Everybody from each squirrel to the donut truck man learns something new and leaves with a greater appreciation at the end of the day.
For a graphic novel inspired by the squirrels in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park, Norma and Belly’s mischief is easily a book that can be read in one sitting or several.
Rereading can reveal funny and favorite moments like the “Pancake Dance” and punny jokes that can cause some spontaneous laughter. I’m happy to know that we’ll see more of my new favorite squirrely best friends as they’ll return in a delicious new adventure, tentatively titled Apple of My Eye, soon.
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Read more about the book and see where to purchase it here!
Check out this read-along of the first chapter by the author here.
MIKA SONG is a children’s writer and illustrator who likes to make stories about sweetly funny outsiders. She grew up in Manila, Philippines and Honolulu, Hawaii before moving to New York to study animation at Pratt Institute. She worked in children’s educational animation before devoting herself to writing and illustrating children’s books. These days she draws in her tiny apartment in Chinatown and volunteers as a Reading Partners tutor with upper elementary kids. See more of her on her personal website and on Twitter and Instagram.