This book was so very unlike his other books, yet full of his distinctive flair. In a nod to Aesop’s Fables or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, this collection of short stories center around anthropomorphized animals. And like those stories of old, they’re a wee bit too violent to be called kids stories. I was always amazed by how much violence and death is in fairy tales.
Sedaris continues this tradition with his usual wit and keen eye for mundane details. From the eponymous squirrel and chipmunk story about why the two of them can’t be together to a rabbit that guards the gate to his forest (no fence, mind you, just a gate), the stories are equal parts humorous and confusing. He isn’t always bothered with playing the role of morality teacher that the old tales so often play, either. Perhaps the biggest stroke of genius is the many ambiguous endings. Just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, it ends.
No review of this book would be complete without a word or two about the illustrator. I don’t often read books with illustrations. Sure, historical or biographical books usually have a photo spread but rare is the time that I happen across drawings. Here is one of those rare times. Ian Falconer provides an illustration at the beginning of each tale. They’re delightfully drawn but a couple of them give away pivotal points in the story, so that was a tad disappointing.
The book is a pretty good read but if you go into it because you liked his other books, then you must approach it with an open mind. It’s a good work in and of itself, but doesn’t fit seamlessly into his cannon. If you’ve ever read any of the Grimm brother’s tales, the original ones, not the Disney Versions, you may like this book. If you’re curious, I’d recommend you check it out, after all it’s a very quick read with stories that don’t connect and can be put down and picked up frequently without losing anything.