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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Squirrel Wars is an epic animal fantasy novel for children and young adults written by Jane Finch and illustrated by Frank Thomas. Rowan was a young red squirrel who had the most amazing dream late one morning. There was a gigantic acorn that housed within its side a tiny door, and squirrels were going in and out. Inside, there were tables loaded with all sorts of scrumptious treats, but then he saw them -- grey squirrels. They were much bigger than he was, and the largest of them was approaching him. As the situation got increasingly terrifying, Rowan was relieved to find that it was only a dream. His mother said it was because he slept too late into the day and that he should be out foraging with his brothers and sisters. When Rowan finally joined his siblings, he asked them if indeed an acorn could possibly grow to be as large as a mountain. Most of the squirrels who were nearby laughed at his question, but one whispered that there might be such acorns in Invader Country, but that he should beware the Grey Invaders. Rowan’s brother, Chestnut, yelled at Rowan when he wanted to know more about the Grey Invaders. They were something never to be spoken about; something to be feared.
Jane Finch’s epic animal fantasy for children and young adults, Squirrel Wars, is a well-written and absorbing tale about a colony of red squirrels who lived in mortal dread of the greys, who were larger and more vicious. In a drama worthy of Romeo and Juliet, Rowan meets a young female grey squirrel, and finds what they have in common is much greater than their differences. Their growing relationship is doomed, however, when the greys find out about it and imprison her. Rowan will risk all to save her, but the odds seem so overwhelmingly in the favor of the hostile and physically superior greys. Readers who are familiar with the real threats to the native red squirrel in Great Britain, whose existence is increasingly threatened by the larger grays and hybrid blacks, will feel a special connection to this story. There’s also the further message about bullying and the strength those who are bullied can summon up when they unite and ask for help.
Squirrel Wars is suspenseful and action-packed, and Rowan’s coming of age as a young squirrel is marvelous indeed. Those with very young or impressionable younger children may want to pre-screen Squirrel Wars as there is violence and the inevitable loss of life that is the price of any war. As with Richard Adams’ classic animal fantasy, Watership Down, there’s drama, adventure, romance and battles to be found in Squirrel Wars. It’s a marvelous read for animal and nature lovers of all ages and it’s most highly recommended.