In Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, Badger lives in his aunt's brownstone and spends his days studying rocks (although I don't think the word "geologist" is ever used). Since Aunt Lula moved out, Badger's had the place to himself and he's turned the living area into a study with all of his rocks and tools. He's content. He has a routine. Then, one day Skunk shows up on his doorstep and is shocked to find that Badger has no idea why he's there. Skunk says Aunt Lula has told him he can stay with Badger.
They have a little conflict and Badger rudely tries to pass off a small closet as the guest room, but Skunk is a happy-go-lucky little stinker and spends his time making the acquaintance of all the neighborhood chickens, cooking very nice meals for the two of them, and generally being a nice housemate. As they get to know each other, Badger begins to question his desire to have the brownstone to himself, again. But, he's already written a letter to Aunt Lula insisting that he can't work properly with a housemate.
When Badger finally goes far enough to offend Skunk and Skunk abruptly moves out, Badger realizes that a little compromise is not a bad thing if you have a companion to enjoy meals and conversation with. He doesn't want to go back to being alone. Will Badger be able to find Skunk and make amends?
Highly recommended - I'm not sure of the age range for Skunk and Badger but I'm presuming it should be called a middle grade book. You could read it aloud to a not-quite-yet-reading child and readers in second to middle grades would probably read it on their own, depending on the individual's skill level. What I love most about Skunk and Badger is that it's very silly but has a sweet theme. I loved the chicken invasion and the way Badger slowly softens to the chickens. I also just happen to be a fan of rocks (I wanted to be a geologist, at one point, hence the availability of rocks to photograph with the book). So, I had fun reading a children's book with a geologist in it, even if he happened to be a badger.
Also, very important: the illustrations are marvelous. It's a fine thing when even illustrations make you smile or laugh, as these do.
I received an ARC of Skunk and Badger from Algonquin's Young Readers line in exchange for an unbiased review and I can tell you in a completely unbiased way that it's one of my favorite books of the year. I found myself yearning to have my grandchildren nearby. I know Skunk and Badger will make them giggle, when we're finally able to see each other, again. I loved the characters, the often-unexpected word choices, the wackiness, and the gentle undercurrent about the importance of friendship.
The scheduled release date for Skunk and Badger is September 15. Many thanks to Algonquin for the review copy!
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