Written and Illustrated by: Ron Roecker
Publisher: Be Differently
Publication Date: August 2021
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Three squirrels take on an acorn shortage and show readers what can be done when you jump out of your comfort zone, break stereotypes and risk everything to help your friends and neighbors.
Before getting into the “meat” of the story, Fynn the snail, the narrator, explains that every squirrel has a role. And how did each squirrel get their role?
Chasers are boys that chase other sprinters./Hunters are girls that hunt nuts for winter.
And then, a few lines later, Fynn asks,
If you were a squirrel, would you fit your box?/Or would you stay outside & dance in your socks?
An interesting question indeed. And as the adventure begins, readers will realize that the story will have them re-thinking gender roles and stereotypes and why we follow ancient rules about such things.
When Squirrel asked The Aunties why girls have one role and boys have another, they explain, “It’s not about smarts. It’s about who was given the role from the start.” That gets Squirrel thinking…and the three talk about a key, a penny, and...well, some very cool things. That is until they have to head to town to hear the mayor speak.
The mayor tells the townsfolk that it’s time to gather acorns but there’s a problem because there’s been no rain and nuts are scarce. He also warns The Aunties and Squirrel that if they don’t fulfil their assigned roles and bring back nuts, and just nuts, they will be banned forever. But Squirrel might just bring back something else, something perhaps better, or different...but is it worth risking banishment?
Book 4 in Ron Roecker’s “6 of 1/Half Doz of the Other“ series, The Shiny Shenanigans of Aunties and Squirrel, takes on the topic of gender role stereotypes and biases and spins the whole outdated mode of thinking around like a whirl-a-gig. Squirrel and The Aunties are expected to act and do things a certain way, but they know if they follow those expectations, things for the village won’t go well. Instead, they break out of their assigned roles and by following their instincts about what works for them, they succeed in finding a vast acorn stash. Along the way, characters in the story, as well as readers, discover new ideas of what each individual is capable of, and how staying confined to what others say we should do, can stunt our growth, happiness, and health.
The entire tale is told in rhyme and has a sort of sing-songy light-hearted feel to it, particularly with The Aunties repeated use of “Wooty Toot Tooty!” There’s also an abundance of illustrations, with at least one per page, and frequently two per page. The author did his own illustrations and his artistic background shines through in the happy, expressive faces on every page.
Quill says: The Shiny Shenanigans of Aunties and Squirrel is a unique and refreshing way to point out the problems with gender roles and stereotypes and the great things that can be achieved when we break out of those stereotypes.