by Dana Lehman & Judy Lehman, illustrator
Lehman Publishing 5/31/2010 – 4/24/2008 – 6/15/2007
Age 4 to 8 36 pages
“Sammy enjoys visiting new places, so he decides to take his friends to an enchanted forest called Whispering Willows. Along the way and through Paradise Pond, Bucky realizes that with practice and confidence, he can swim! Join Sammy and his friends on a journey that will have them swimming for frogs, swinging through the forest and building a tree house. Magical things happen in Whispering Willows . . . if you believe.
#1: “Sammy was a unique squirrel.”
#2: “Walnut Grove was a wonderful place to spend summer vacation.”
#3: “It was time for another visit from Sammy’s cousins, Silly and Sassy.”
Sammy is waiting for his cousins, Silly and Sassy to return to Walnut Grove, where Sammy lives. Sammy is a unique squirrel. He has raccoon eyes! Maybe it is his eyes or maybe because Sammy likes to lead that everyone follows him. Today the gang is going to Whispering Willows, a magical forest, where Sammy wants to build a treehouse. Who is this gang of animals? Sammy (squirrel, and apparent leader), Silly and Sassy (squirrels and Sammy’s cousins), Bucky (a beaver who is learning to swim), and Rocky (a raccoon, who trusts Sammy because of Sammy’s raccoon eyes).
This is the third adventure for this gang of friends. The first, entitled, Adventures at Walnut Pond: a Lesson in Teasing has the gang staying at the Walnut Grove Resort where they play with many new friends. In a game of walnut ball, a new kid (Bucky the beaver), tries to distract Sammy from hitting the walnut by teasing him. Later, Pokey (porcupine) teases Bucky about his lack of swimming skills. In the end, they all learn, teasing any animal is not nice and to treat others as you would like to be treated. Bucky and Pokey apologize and the kids have a great time for the rest of their visit to the Walnut Grove Resort.
I Double Dare You again brings the cousins Silly and Sassy. By now, they have gotten the knack of causing trouble without meaning to. They just do not think. During a game of hide-and-seek, Silly and Sassy get distracted by some nice long sticks. Silly double dares Sassy to play swords. Though mom had told them no more playing swords, Sassy could not refuse a double dare. She accidently pokes Silly in the eye. Later, Silly and Bucky climb up onto Deep Water Bridge. Silly double dares Bucky to jump into the river. Silly jumps and swims to shore. Bucky feels pressure to follow, so he jumps. There’s one problem: Bucky is just learning to swim. He begins to drown. Both Sassy and Bucky blame Silly because he had double dared them, leaving them no choice. The kids learn it is important to take responsibility for your own actions and to apologize when they are wrong. Silly’s poked eye heals and Bucky survives the water. When Bucky was drowning, his dad rescued him. In kid’s books, children—in this instance, one of the gang—should do the rescuing. This empowers kids.
This brings us to the most current adventure for Sammy and company. Mothers of two-year-olds are well aware of this title: I Can Do It! The gang is in Whispering Willows, the magical forest where anything can happen. Bucky’s learned to swim and can swim out after a frog, now named Whopper because the frog is one whopper! Silly will not fare as well. Every time Silly tries to build something, he gets hurt. Silly has no desire to help make a treehouse. Encouraged, he tries—and smashes his paw with a hammer, losing all confidence in himself. Silly also physically loses himself, sans his eyes, which look to be floating. Now that is eerie.
The magical tree allowing the kids to build tells Silly he will be invisible until he believes in himself. Silly stops helping. Later, Bucky gives Silly Whopper, whom Bucky considers a lucky charm. Silly gives building one more shot. Soon, his confidence returns, as does Silly. Thank goodness, Bucky knew how to help Silly. Silly’s mom would probably prefer a poked eye to an invisible child. The message of this third volume of Adventures at Walnut Grove is to believe in yourself. Believe I Can Do It!
The Adventures at Walnut Grove all carry messages that are impossible to miss. I am not fond of message books, especially when the message hits you almost instantly. That is just what I do not like; or simply my own opinion. If you like such books, the three well-written volumes—with a fourth in the works—has wonderful characters, each unique in some way. I like that the characters return in each new story. When a character is lost, some kids will be sad and may give up on the series. A series needs consistency and Ms. Lehman made sure all her beloved characters returned, once introduced, and acted consistently from one story to the next. I’d be very surprised if the fourth story strays.
The illustrations are nice. The images are not digital, giving the books a down-home feel that will be comforting. There is one odd spread. In I Can Do It, spread 6, the illustrator used the exact same illustration on the left and right halves of the spread. [I just learned this was a printer error only caught after an order was placed, NOT AN ILLUSTRATOR ERROR.] On a happier note, the animals are realistic and consistently drawn. I think kids will enjoy the illustrations. As for the text, my only suggestion would be to edit for wordiness and to bring the text more in line with picture book word counts of 500 to 1000. A few pages are nearly half text. Young children “read” the illustrations and may become distracted waiting for the page to turn. Beyond this, I like each story. I like the situations used to bring the message to fruition. Ms. Lehman is someone I would consider to have an active imagination. Every writer should have such an imagination.
Each book ends with A Word from the Author. It starts off on a good note to parents, but then becomes patronizing. The author may still be talking to children with her encouraging note. My understanding of an author’s note is to clarify the content or add to it. In a picture book, I do not expect a note for the child, but this would explain the tone of the note.
I look forward to book four. I think parents will love the messages this series can help them teach their children. Kids will enjoy the story and the wonderfully fresh illustrations. The last two pages contain a mix of open and closed discussion questions and a short activity. There are more activities on the author’s website. Kindergarten and first grade teachers could easily find a use for this series. Schools libraries would do well to stock up on Sammy and his friends at Walnut Grove. Thus far, this series ha sold over 10,000 copies!
ADVENTURES AT WALNUT GROVE #1: A LESSON IN TEASING, #2: I DOUBLE DARE YOU, #3: I CAN DO IT. Text copyright © 2007, 2008, 2010 by Dana Lehman. Illustrations copyright © 2007, 2008, 2010 by Judy Lehman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Lehman Publishing, Allentown, MI.
Learn more about the Adventures at Walnut Grove series HERE.
.AWARDS – 2009 Mom’s Choice Award (x2)
A Lesson about Teasing – Silver: Values and Life Lessons
I DOUBLE Dare You! – Silver: Developing Social Skills
Copyright © 2014 Sue Morris, Kid Lit Reviews