Burnt pancakes and a rejected barter inspire two chummy squirrels to stage an elaborate doughnut heist that ends with treats for all in Mika Song's delightful graphic novel series opener, Donut Feed the Squirrels.
After Norma's breakfast plans end inedibly, she and fellow squirrel Belly follow the luscious scent of crispy sugar to find a doughnuts-on-demand food truck in their urban park. Eager to feed their gathered friends, Norma and Belly collect chestnuts to trade for the treats. When the truck's driver shoos them away, the rejected rodents enlist the help of Gramps and Little Bee to execute an improbable treat-stealing caper. Following a not-so-clean getaway, the team returns laden with doughnuts for a party that leaves the neighborhood squirrels stuffed and sated. Meanwhile, the cantankerous chef finds in cleaning up the squirrels' mess that the chestnuts made an inspired offering after all.
Squat Belly plays the accommodating sidekick to angular Norma, the mastermind of their operation. Five well-paced chapters allow for ample character development and feature a range of panel layouts to hold visual interest, with minimal text in clearly designated speech bubbles. Subtle humor and witty puns, including a dough-covered Belly remarking, "I've never been batter," suit the gentle humor of beginning readers. Song's (illustrator of A Friend for Henry and Harry and Claire's Amazing Staycation) loosely inked lines and washes of color lend the story a relaxed feel, the warm palette and golden tones suiting the furry critters and their natural surroundings. Nestled under a tree, content, their prized snack tasting "like sunshine and hugs," we leave the two friends hungry to see where the next story leads them. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf