Nuts to You

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Nuts to You Book Poster Image
Sweet, funny squirrel adventure great read-alone or -aloud.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author Lynne Rae Perkins slips in quite a bit of entry-level science, with highly entertaining footnotes and tangents. For example, when the squirrels meet a hairy woodpecker, she quickly explains that it's a species name, not a description; when a seed sticks to fur, she explains the evolutionary reason behind this. Along the way, readers will learn how different animals see things differently (as one page points out early on, a wolf who's a great guy to his friends doesn't seem nearly so nice if you're a squirrel).

Positive Messages

Strong messages about courage, friendship, looking out for your friends and neighbors, and learning to get along with new people and animals when you meet them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young squirrels Jed, Chai, TsTs, and Tchke are brave, resourceful, and determined to save their families and neighbors from danger. Human and animal characters -- especially the worker who feeds the squirrels peanut butter sandwiches -- treat them kindly.

Violence & Scariness

The story gets off to a scary start, with a squirrel being snatched away by a predator. A squirrel loses her grandpa in a flood. In the past, a squirrel family is run over by a car. The brave hero squirrels must convince their families and friends to relocate because their home's about to be destroyed.


There's not much in the way of problematic language; a fleeting reference to falling on one's bum is about as wild as it gets. But kids may gleefully pick up some ingenious squirrel curses, including the wish that someone fall into the barf of a sick owl. "Nuts to you!" is a friendly greeting among squirrels.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newbery award winner Lynne Rae Perkins is in fine form with Nuts to You, the saga of four intrepid young squirrels trying to save their friends and family from being destroyed along with their homes -- because humans with chain saws are cutting back the trees that have grown up around the power lines (which the squirrels use for a handy highway). The fast-moving plot (which has a tendency to solve problems quickly and go on to the next issue) and the author's frequent cute, clever illustrations will lure even reluctant readers and make this not just a great read-aloud choice but also something older kids will love reading to younger ones. Heads up that some of the gross-out humor and squirrel curses (for example, the practice of hoping someone falls into a pile of sick-owl barf) may be so irresistible to some kids that they become part of daily conversation. Another heads up: One band of squirrels speaks a rustic English dialect that may bewilder younger kids.

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What's the story?

NUTS TO YOU (a common friendly greeting among squirrels) seems destined to end before it begins, as a bright young squirrel named Jed is happily minding his own business when a hawk grabs him. But, thanks to a clever squirrel martial art known as Hai Tchree (one of many wordplays that will give kids the giggles), Jed makes his escape, and soon, with friends TsTs, Chai, and Tchke, discovers a dire peril that threatens their homes. The friends try to make their way home to warn their neighbors and have many adventures along the way.

Is it any good?

There's plenty here for little kids, big kids, and their parents to love. Author Lynne Rae Perkins effortlessly hooks the reader in the unfolding adventure, offering a number of clever asides and puns to crack up older readers and hilarious situations that will do the same for little ones. Her cute, clever illustrations are plentiful and bring the story to life for those who aren't quite reading yet -- and have lots of interesting detail, such as the side discussion of how a wolf's friends think he's a great guy, but squirrels, not so much.

As the brave young squirrels face many perils, readers will acquire interesting tidbits of scientific knowledge, such as the existence of a bird called the hairy woodpecker and the fact that it's an evolutionary advantage for plant seeds to have burrs that stick to animal fur.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories with animal characters. What's the appeal? Are stories with animal characters different from stories with human characters? If so, how? 

  • Suppose you knew your neighborhood was about to be destroyed. What would you do? Would you help your neighbors escape, run away, or do something else?

  • Many times characters have trouble figuring out what's going on because they don't really understand what they're seeing. Have you ever seen something happening and had no idea what it meant? What did you do?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventures and animal stories

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