Squirrel and John Muir

( 1 )

Overview

An outstanding book for young naturalists

Floy Hutchings, also known as Squirrel, is the daughter of the man who opened the first hotel in the Yosemite Valley in the 1860s. She has to fend for herself much of the time and is considered wild by her family and her father's guests. When the future naturalist John Muir is hired as a carpenter, Floy becomes his inquisitive shadow as he builds himself a cabin over a stream, talks to flowers, and listens to snow. Floy, determined never...

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Overview

An outstanding book for young naturalists

Floy Hutchings, also known as Squirrel, is the daughter of the man who opened the first hotel in the Yosemite Valley in the 1860s. She has to fend for herself much of the time and is considered wild by her family and her father's guests. When the future naturalist John Muir is hired as a carpenter, Floy becomes his inquisitive shadow as he builds himself a cabin over a stream, talks to flowers, and listens to snow. Floy, determined never to grow up because she'd have to be a lady, and Muir, searching nature for a way to live free of society's expectations, are primed to find common ground.

In this story set against a backdrop of watercolor paintings that vividly capture the beauty of Yosemite, Floy learns to see the world through John Muir's eyes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Once again, [Emily Arnold McCully] makes a wild, small girl the center of stirring picture-book historical fiction...beautiful, double-page watercolor landscapes...The contrast between the child's 'glowering loneliness' and the rich solitude she finds in nature will move young wilderness lovers profoundly." -- Booklist

"Caldecott medalist McCully again successfully creates a narrative that pairs a rambunctious girl character with a fascinating historical figure. McCully's familiar watercolors beautifully capture the scenery while the simple text conveys the bond between the unlikely pair. A lovely tribute to the gentle genius of the Sierras that gives dimension to the man and respect to his name." --Kirkus Reviews

"McCully's sure watercolors capture the stunning natural beauty of the area and provide a majestic backdrop for the small figure of Squirrel." -- School Library Journal

"McCully deftly weaves Muir's ideas and discoveries...into a story of unlikely friendship. Her watercolors are as adept at capturing the warmth and respect between man and child as they are at depicting the beauty of one of America's natural treasures." -- The Horn Book

Publishers Weekly
McCully (Mirette on the High Wire) uses history and biography as a springboard to a story about how naturalist and writer John Muir befriended a child who shared his love of the outdoors. In 1868 (according to the author's note), James Hutchings and his family are making a go of a hotel business and of leading guided tours in the Yosemite Valley. The oldest Hutchings child, a spirited girl nicknamed Squirrel (so-called for her tendency to dart about), continually tries the patience of her parents and the hotel guests. But when Muir arrives one day, looking for work, Squirrel has more than met her match. In between his chores, he studies the landscape hoping to prove his theory of glacial formation. He also luxuriates in the area's natural wonders, encouraging Squirrel to do the same. McCully portrays Muir's breakthrough when he is able to prove his ideas to be scientifically sound as the natural progression of his daily observations. His forays into the wild, shown through Floy's perspective, seem like simple hikes but add up to a larger purpose. When Muir earns a following, an angry Hutchings asks the man to go, but not before he leaves Squirrel (and readers) with a parting gift. McCully again cultivates the seeds of fact into a vivid imagining of what might have been. She creates instantly memorable characters in the spunky tomboy Squirrel replete with petulant poses and facial expressions and young-at-heart Muir. And Yosemite, in its unspoiled glory, comes alive via McCully's sun-dappled watercolor scenes, lush with green trees and dusty rock faces alongside swift moving rivers and white splashes of waterfall. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
What naturalist Henry Thoreau is to the East Coast, John Muir is to the West Coast. Here is a delightful interpretation of the founder of the Sierra Club and his adventures with a wild, impish young girl, Floy, in Yosemite Valley circa 1868. Gentle watercolor illustrations capture the pristine, unspoiled world of the Hutchings' family—who operated a hotel and provided tours of the area. John Muir "happens" to pass through the area and Mr. Hutchings "happens" to need a hired hand to help run the hotel. A partnership is formed and Floy's world is never the same. Though the antics of Floy irritate and annoy others, John Muir allows her to experience nature with him, all the while studying the land for glacier trails and evidence of glacier formations. Not only is this story fascinating, this is one of those books suitable for a unit study of nature and frontier history. Even the vocabulary lends itself to further investigation. How many will understand what it means to have 'simpered?' A terrific addition to a home, school or a library and one that I'm sure even the wily Floy Hutchings and gentle John Muir would be proud to be a part of. 2004, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 4 to 8.
—Elizabeth Young
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Floy, nicknamed Squirrel, lives in the Yosemite Valley with her parents who own and operate a hotel. Her father hires John Muir as a handyman, and his knowledge of the animals, plants, and geology of the region captivates the feisty girl. He spends hours outdoors with her, showing her how to examine insects under a magnifying glass and to recognize glacier trails. But his naive, good humor and rugged, good looks also capture the attention of visitors. A rift develops between John and his boss, so the naturalist decides to move on. Squirrel is devastated but somewhat mollified when he shows her his special mountainside perch, where he assures her she will have her "best thoughts." The afterword explains how this fictionalized retelling of an actual relationship reveals much about the compelling founder of the Sierra Club. Both his gentle personality and steely determination to see his beliefs recognized by his peers come through clearly. On the other hand, Squirrel seems persistently petulant and often downright rude; the abrupt conclusion leaves readers wondering about this rather unlikable heroine. McCully's sure watercolors capture the stunning natural beauty of the area and provide a majestic backdrop for the small figure of Squirrel. This offering is best used to introduce Muir to budding naturalists or to supplement geology and conservation units.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Caldecott Medalist McCully again successfully creates a narrative that pairs a rambunctious girl character with a fascinating historical figure. This inventive tale brings the personage of naturalist John Muir to life. In 1868, James Hutchings began a tourist business in the beautiful Yosemite Valley in 1868, and his daughter Floy was the first white child born in the valley. At six, her wild behavior of tearing around the valley, balancing on the woodpile plank, and capturing frogs earned her the nickname Squirrel. When John Muir arrived at Hutchings's hotel seeking both work and knowledge about the natural world, Floy became his shadow, entranced by the wonders of nature that he showed her. The ending has Muir moving on but sharing his special place in the mountains, with her. McCully's familiar watercolors beautifully capture the scenery while the simple text conveys the bond between the unlikely pair. A two-page author's note provides historical background (Floy died tragically). A lovely tribute to the gentle genius of the Sierras that gives dimension to the man and respect to his name. (bibliography) (Picture book/historical fiction. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374336974
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/10/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 796,761
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.82 (w) x 11.78 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully is the author and/or illustrator of numerous books for children. She lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    A SPLENDID STORY THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN TRUE

    When author/artist Emily Arnold McCully set her sights on famed naturalist John Muir and a little girl whom he met in Yosemite in 1868 the result was a splendid story which isn't totally true - but, it could have been. At that time Muir was 30-years-old. He'd been to college, worked at several jobs, and felt a strong call to commune with nature and discover its laws. When he arrived in Yosemite hoping to prove his theory of glacial formation, he was hired by James Hutchings, an English journalist bent on attracting tourism to the area. Hutchings was also bent on one other task - taming his spirited daughter, Floy. Here was a girl who never wanted to grow up because then she'd have to be a lady. A thought quite repellant to the rebellious young miss whose nickname was Squirrel. She happily spent hours 'talking to the family's pet parrot, balancing on a plank by the woodpile, making mud pies, and capturing frogs.' As the story develops Muir and Squirrel soon become the best of friends as he shows her how to see through his eyes the incredible surroundings in which she lives. It is not known whether or not Floy grew up to be a lady, but it is known that John Muir became famous and the world has benefitted by what he learned. - Gail Cooke

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