Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
Illus. by Jon Klassen. Allen and Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760525484.
(Age: 7-10) Highly recommended for mature readers. Everything about this book is delightful. The textured and beautifully illustrated dust jacket compels you to touch and pick up the book, while inside it is full of personable animal characters and illustrations which immediately evoke comparisons to classics such as Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh.
This is book one of a planned trilogy and tells a charming version of the well-worn 'odd couple' story.
Badger is a gruff rock scientist who leads a solitary life ruled by routine. When his calendar is marked with an X he undertakes Important Rock Work and is not to be disturbed. He has never met a chicken and wouldn't know what to say if he did.
One day Skunk knocks on the door, barrelling into Badger's quiet life, disturbing the Important Rock Work and bringing his chicken-whistle with him. During their first conversation Skunk says "Not everyone wants a skunk" and that is true.
But the new roommates start to settle in and enjoy getting to know each other (along with a LOT of chickens). That is, until an unfortunate event leads to harsh words, hurt feelings and a sudden split.
The actions taken after the split are heart-warming to read as life, neighbours and surroundings are all viewed in a new light.
Timberlake is an award-winning children's author and has created a wonderful and complex story full of warmth and humour. Mature readers will enjoy the morals about friendship and being open to new opportunities. Younger readers would struggle with the storyline and language if left to their own devices, but the use of onomatopoeia makes this an ideal book to read alongside or aloud to them perhaps a chapter at a time.
Klassen is a perfect illustrator for this work. The end pages at front and back are covered in different rock types, all hand drawn and labelled. There are simple as well as more detailed black and white illustrations throughout the book as well as several coloured plates that bring the story and characters to life.
Themes: Geology, animals, friends, feelings.