Skunk and Badger (Algonquin Young Readers)
Written by Amy Timberlake
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
I was immediately struck by how unexpectedly unusual and pleasant this book was from the first page. Author Amy Timberlake is tapping into that same creative vein that has given us books like Beatrix Potter’s bibliography, Frog & Toad, The Wind in the Willows, The Odd Couple, and the Wallace & Gromit movies. It’s a world of animals that behave strikingly like people, all the same, with little daily struggles, annoyances, and triumphs. As an adult, I felt very connected to this book and would be fascinated to know how a child would process it. There is no big epic story, just the interactions between these two roommates. It’s a cozy world that I felt compelled to crawl inside and hang out for a while. It’s also a genuinely hilarious book, with humor coming from the characters’ responses to each other and silly anxieties over tackling simple problems.
Badger lives in his aunt’s plush brownstone in the middle of the city. One day there’s a knock at the door. It’s Skunk. Badger slams the door shut, assuming he is dealing with a salesperson. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as Badger discovers. He had been ignoring his aunt’s letter that informed him the son of one of her good friends was moving in and going to have one of the bedrooms. Badger is worried this will disrupt his vital daily tasks of examining, polishing, and displaying his rock collection. Well, it does, but that is not a bad thing. Skunk brings a horde of chickens along with him, and by the end of the story, Badger has warmed up (a bit) to his new living situation.
This is unlike most middle-grade novels on the market, which is why it stands out so strongly to me. It’s a hilarious, calm book that uses these animal characters to look at our foibles & hang-ups.