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Squirrel and John Muir

Last updated Monday, April 4, 2005

Author: Emily Arnold McCully
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0374336970
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Apr. 2005

Synopsis: (From the publisher.) Floy Hutchings, also known as Squirrel, is the daughter of the man who opened the first hotel in the Yosemite Valley in the 1860s. She has to fend for herself much of the time and is considered wild by her family and her father's guests. When the future naturalist John Muir is hired as a carpenter, Floy becomes his inquisitive shadow as he builds himself a cabin over a stream, talks to flowers, and listens to snow. Floy, determined never to grow up because she'd have to be a lady, and Muir, searching nature for a way to live free of society's expectations, are primed to find common ground.
In this story set against a backdrop of watercolor paintings that vividly capture the beauty of Yosemite, Floy learns to see the world through John Muir's eyes.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever been to Yosemite? What?s it like (based on experience or the pictures)? What would it be like to live in the country instead of the city?
•  Have you ever heard of John Muir? Turn to the first page featuring portraits of the characters. What do you think these people are like? What roles do you think they?ll play in the book?
•  Do you have a nickname? Why were you given that nickname?
•  What do you think it would be like to live in the wilderness?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why do you think John Muir thought Yosemite was so special?
•  Why did Floy?s father want John Muir to leave?
•  How do you balance getting people interested in being outdoors so that they maintain it, and not having so many people go someplace that it gets ruined? Can a place be ruined by too many people?
•  Where is your secret place to go to think?
•  How is John and Squirrel?s world different from the world today? Why would John Muir work so hard to preserve the wilderness from development?
•  Vocabulary: isolated, spectacular, snickering, sauntered, captivated, glacier.

Craft ideas:
•  Make a 3-D version of Yosemite valley with construction paper.
•  Divide a piece of paper into four: draw what you think Yosemite Valley looks like during each season.
•  Make a postcard with a picture of Yosemite, or your favorite outside place, on one side, and a letter to the President on the other about why such places should be preserved, or a letter to a friend about what it?s like.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!