The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale (2017)

unbeatableCute, funny, and a little bit corny, this is a celebration of being yourself.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:   324 (for ISBN 9781484781548)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, science fiction, adventure, superheroes

Tone/Style: humorous, goofy

Pace: moderate

Topics: superheroes, secrets, identity

Themes: being different, being oneself, friendship

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moved from sunny California to the suburbs of New Jersey. She must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her fluffy tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of . . . a squirrel!

After failing at several attempts to find her new BFF, Doreen feels lonely and trapped, like a caged animal. Then one day Doreen uses her extraordinary powers to stop a group of troublemakers from causing mischief in the neighborhood, and her whole life changes. Everyone at school is talking about it! Doreen contemplates becoming a full-fledged Super Hero. And thus, Squirrel Girl is born!

She saves cats from trees, keeps the sidewalks clean, and prevents vandalism. All is well until a real-life Super Villain steps out of the shadows and declares Squirrel Girl his archenemy. Can Doreen balance being a teenager and a Super Hero? Or will she go . . . NUTS? (Source)

Who will like this book?: Growing up is extra tough when you’ve got a giant squirrel tail you have to keep hidden in your pants. (No, that’s not a euphemism.) Goofy humor makes this a fun read, and Doreen’s upbeat attitude in the face of adversity is inspiring. Give this to quirky readers looking for a feel-good story with an emphasis on loving yourself.

Who won’t like this book?: I could see some readers being “too cool” for this book. It has an earnest, self-aware dorkiness to it that will appeal to some readers, but that I could see backfiring in a group setting among middle schoolers. I probably wouldn’t booktalk this or read it aloud. It has a bit of action, but ptobably not enough to hook reluctant readers.

Other comments: Point for having a deaf character! My favorite part of this book was the offhand comments about how Doreen’s hidden tail makes it look like she has a big badonk. I also love that Doreen has such supportive parents.

Sequel(s): The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious (2018)

Readalikes: The natural choice is to read the comics by Ryan North (beginning with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1: Squirrel Power), which are appropriate for most middle school readers. There are a ton of other middle grade and YA superhero novel adaptations coming out lately, too.

-Kylie Peters

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