I was in a bit of a reading slump after some disappointing books, but I’m pleased to say Skunk and Badger was just the pick-me-up read I needed!
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake and illustrated by Jon Klassen
My Edition: ARC paperback – 126 pages – 2020 – Algonquin Young Readers – ISBN: 9781643750057 (hardcover)
Thank you to Algonquin for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
In a similar vein to Frog and Toad are Skunk and Badger; Badger is a very important Rock Scientist, living at his aunt’s house and studying…rocks. He’s methodical, organized, and keeps to himself. That all changes when Skunk comes a-knocking. Skunk, sent to live with Badger by Aunt Lula, is spontaneous, high-energy, curious, and messy. He loves making new friends, especially chickens, and Badger soon finds his kitchen messy from Skunk’s cooking, his scientific work disturbed by noises from his new roommate, and a house full of chickens. Can the two get along?
I’m sure I must have read the Frog and Toad books back in grade school; I know for a certainty I read them to a student a few years ago when I participated in a reading program at his school. In a longer, chapter-book format than our amphibian friends, Skunk and Badger convey important life lessons through their dissimilar personalities and some humor.
I certainly saw a bit of myself in Badger. I’m very much a “place for everything and everything in its place” type, and so is he. His rock room is very particularly organized and decorated, including: “In the fireplace, Badger had piled geodes in a pyramid. (Artistic!)” The artistic comment made me smile and I totally agree. That’s a great use of a fireplace if you’re not using it for, you know, fires. Readers even get a little lesson from Badger on the difference between minerals and rocks as he does his work.
Badger has his routines, he keeps his aunt’s house orderly (except maybe for the room full of boxes he’s hoarding, but as an adult, I know how hard it is to let go of a good box – you might need it someday!) and he enjoys his alone time. Or does he?
It’s great to watch Skunk bring Badger out of his shell with delicious meals, messes, and many, many chickens. Skunk isn’t just all fun and games though. One night he’s reading Shakespeare’s Henry V and explains his thoughts on the material to Badger:
“Gentle and kind is the way I would like the world to be. I hope it will be that way. But Badger, if it were true that kindness and gentleness were the best way to win a kingdom – or win anything at all – wouldn’t everyone do it? Not everyone is gentle and kind. Even I myself find it hard to be kind and gentle. Sometimes I get mad.”
The book is full of little thoughtful moments like that one. Later, Badger is getting advice on how to apologize from other animals in town. Some of the sage advice includes actually saying “I’m sorry” out loud, making sure not to say “I’m sorry, but”, and to truly listen to Skunk.
I love when lessons and learning are embedded right into the story and come naturally from the personalities and interactions between characters. This is such a charming little book and I was just so happy reading it. I love how Timberlake made sure to work the animals’ natural instincts and characteristics into their characters, rather than just making them act like humans.
And the illustrations! Hopefully you didn’t think I was going to skip those. You know how much I enjoy illustrations and design elements. I love Klassen’s style and I was charmed from the very cover by Skunk’s grin as he holds out his hand to meet a clearly skeptical Badger. There are several large illustrations and cute chapter headers, and I definitely want to check out the hardcover, since it was published yesterday (September 15). I may need to buy a finished copy. Here are a few pictures to tempt you:
I’m hoping this is a series because I’m going to need more of these two in my life! I highly recommend this for middle-grade lovers like myself, as well as younger readers looking for stories about seemingly unlikely friendships and animal shenanigans.