Nancy Rose: Oakley the Squirrel, The Search for Z

Photographed by the author

Published by Workman Publishing, New York, 2021

Nancy Rose has created a charming story about Oakley the Squirrel searching for Z in this very cute alphabet adventure. Nancy is a retired high school guidance counsellor and lives in Nova Scotia, Cananda. She makes her own props and sets using recycled and natural materials, as well as self-hardening clay, icy pole sticks and whatever she can find in her craft supply cupboards and in nature.

Luring wild squirrels onto her sets with peanuts, Nancy captures them in many different poses and creates her stories around their antics. Sometimes there is competition for the peanuts from blue jays, chickadees, and chipmunks in her backyard, but the squirrels are her favourite posers.

In this story, little Oakley is searching for the letter Z and we begin the hunt with Oakley admiring his acorns, and going on to look beneath his bed, claw through the closet, dig through the drawers and examine the easel.

There are wonderful props to enhance the search: handmade wooden tables and chairs, a hand sewn yellow mackintosh and matching hat, as well as a washing machine and ironing board. Tiny quilts, a swing set, a collection of musical instruments and a grand fireplace with mantel all provide gorgeous and interesting settings for the squirrels to explore.

The search is all so tiring for a little squirrel and on the final page we see Oakley having a well-earned sleep, his beautiful bushy tail resting on his back, his eyes closed and a series of colourful Z’s issuing from his nose…too cute!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature squirrels and other publications from Nancy Rose.

(If you would like to read more about the author, I recommend looking up BookPage on the internet, Nancy Rose was interviewed by Hilli Levin on Nov 10, 2014 – there are some great photos and personal anecdotes included in the article.)

The Secret Life of Squirrels:
A Love Story by Nancy Rose

The Secret Life of Squirrels
by Nancy Rose

The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School by Nancy Rose

Merry Christmas, Squirrels!
by Nancy Rose

The Busy Little Squirrel
by Nancy Tafuri

Squirrels by Brian Wildsmith

Ol’ Mama Squirrel
by David Ezra Stein

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes
by Beatrix Potter

Nuts to You! by Lois Ehlert

The Meanest Squirrel I
Ever Met by Gene Zion
Illustrated by Margaret
Bloy Graham

I’m Sticking With You
by Smriti Halls
Illustrated by Steve Small

Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett

Little Squirrel
by Britta Teckentrup

The Squirrels who Squabbled
by Rachel Bright
Illustrated by Jim Field

The Leaf Thief
by Alice Hemming
Illustrated by Nicola Slater

The Perfect Guest
by Paula Metcalf

A First Book of Nature
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Mark Hearld

Scruffle-Nut by Corinne Fenton Illustrated by Owen Swan

Who Stole the Hazelnuts?
by Marcus Pfister

Sorrel and the Sleepover
by Corrinne Averiss
Illustrated by Susan Varley

Leslie McGuirk: If Rocks Could Sing – a discovered alphabet

Rock styling and props by the author

Photographs by Denise Ritchie

Published by Tricycle Press, Random House, 2011

“This is a book born from the sea. Some people walk the beach searching for shells, all the while passing by the little rocks that make up this book. This collection began more than 10 years ago, as I discovered rocks on the Florida seashore that looked like letters. It became a real passion of mine to complete the entire alphabet…Finding these letters, and rocks that looked like objects to match them, was a process of believing that anything is possible.”

I love the idea that life has serendipitous moments. Sometimes we are in the right place at just the right time, and what was a dream becomes a reality.

For Leslie McGuirk, it has been her dream to create an alphabet using only the sandstone rocks that she could find by fossicking on the Florida seashore. It’s astonishing that she did! All the letters of the alphabet have been discovered, the end papers revealing the complete set.

We begin with A for addition and move on to B for bird and C for couch potato. Cleverly selected rocks resemble the objects that begin with that letter. There is a ‘rock’ bird in a nest, ‘rock’ numbers for addition and a ‘rock’ couch potato resting on a pink satin chaise lounge.

In some ways, it is just another alphabet book. But in other ways, it is the result of so much looking, patience and hope, and a tribute to one person’s perseverance, perspective, and belief that the project could be completed.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the twenty-six letters of our amazing alphabet:

Eating the Alphabet: Fruit & Vegetables from A to Z
by Lois Ehlert

A is for Angry: an animal and adjective alphabet
by Sandra Boynton

Eric Carle’s ABC by Eric Carle

The Wiggles: Emma’s Ballet Alphabet by The Wiggles

Letters from Australia
by Maree Coote

F is for Fox by DK Publishing Illustrated by Marc Pattenden

Flora Forager ABC
by Bridget Beth Collins

A-Z of Australian Animals
by Jennifer Cossins

A is for Atom: a Midcentury Alphabet by Greg Paprocki

A to Z Story of Australian Animals by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

Alpha by Isabelle Arsenault

Black and White Rabbit’s ABC
by Alan Baker

An Alphabet of Stories
by Oliver Jeffers

Lucy & Tom’s ABC
by Shirley Hughes

Once Upon an ABC
by Sophie Masson
Illustrated by Chris Nielsen

A by Paul Thurlby

ABC Alphabet by Chihiro Takeuchi

Alison Lester’s ABC by Alison Lester

M is for Mutiny: History by Alphabet by John Dickson Illustrated by Bern Emmericks

Mog’s ABC by Judith Kerr

Kes Gray: Oi Aardvark!

Illustrated by Jim Field

I love Kes Gray’s picture books. I always read them with a smile, a giggle and no small amount of wonder. How does he come up with all those words that rhyme?

What does rhyme with aardvark? Hmmm, think about it…

Cardshark! And there is the shark, a smiling mouth full of teeth and nifty fins holding playing cards. Riding on top, the aardvark is there too, diving gear on and cards in hand.

In this picture book, Frog has a “New Alphabetty Botty Book” to fill with creatures from A to Z. Frog’s task is to get them to sit somewhere that rhymes with their name. Cat and Dog have done this before, and they are not sure it can be done again. Frog is optimistic he can do it.

For young children, the illustrations are funny and ridiculous. Have you ever seen a donkey sit on a long key? For young readers, the rhyming text helps to ease their way in pronouncing unfamiliar words, like jays sitting on maize and mosquitos sitting on burritos.

There are a few books in this series, some are written with Claire Gray, and all of them in partnership with illustrator Jim Field.

I can highly recommend them for children 2-6 years. I guarantee you will close the book with a smile. Below are more books in this series:

Oi Cat!

Oi Dog!

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!

Oi Puupies!

Oi Frog!

Frog on a Log?

Dog on a Frog?

Mike Dumbleton: Anisa’s Alphabet

Illustrated by Hannah Sommerville

Published by Midnight Sun Publishing Pty Ltd, 2020

With few words, many pictures and the alphabet, Mike Dumbleton has taken us on the journey of young Anisa Alidurahn, a refugee fleeing from her homeland with her family. Each letter frames the next step, the next hope and the next feeling as we travel with Anisa, helping us to understand what it might be like to leave all that we love behind. From happy home, to a tent city, to a boat that is overcrowded and sinking, to detention, we journey with Anisa and enter her uncertain world.

The language is simple, evocative and hopeful despite the helplessness of the many challenges that face Anisa and her family. As such, it is an excellent resource to introduce this sensitive and sometimes disturbing topic to younger readers.

If you like this book, look out for these titles by the same author:

See the source image
Meet…Douglas Mawson
Illustrated by Snip Green
See the source image
Passing On
Illustrated by
Terry Denton
See the source image
Illustrated by Tom Jellett

If you would like to read more picture books about refugees, here are some of my favorite titles:

What is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel

See the source image
Whoever You Are by
Mem Fox
Illustrated by Leslie Staub

See the source image
My Two Blankets by
Irena Kobald
Illustrated by
Freya Blackwood

The Little Refugee
by Anh Do and Suzanne Do Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Just Like You by Jo Loring-Fisher