Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
Illustrations by Ian Falconer (author and illustrator of the Olivia books)
First of all, I know that David Sedaris has a new book out. I haven’t read that one. Why did I read his three-year-old book instead? Here’s the deal: I’m supposed to be reading something in a good friend’s wedding in September. So, I’ve been looking for something short and lovely but not trite. The other day, someone suggested there might something good in a Sedaris book. She specifically suggested Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, because the stories are so short. Well, happy day! A couple of years ago, I had given the book as a stocking stuffer to someone who adores all things critter-related, so it was conveniently sitting (unread) on our bookshelf. And there you have it.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must divulge that I’m a little over David Sedaris. I’ve read most of his books over the years. Some of his stories are delightful and funny (as I recall, there are some true gems in Holidays on Ice). Others are just boring (like most of When You Are Engulfed in Flames). He’s a little inconsistent, but mostly he’s just past his prime. Let’s face it, as people get older, they stop being as funny as they once were (Exhibit A).
I’m sure some of you think this is the best interview of all time, just as you think David Sedaris is the funniest writer of all time. But, for me, it’s an exemplification of what is both good and bad about David Sedaris. He has a couple of decent one-liners (“Let me let you go,” and “Men with beards have fathers who have guns. I’m 80% right on this.”). But you can just tell he thinks he’s funnier than he actually is. And, let’s be real, his timing is a little off. He and Jon Stewart must be pals, because Stewart’s reactions to Sedaris’s jokes are a little over-the-top. I think a lot of people’s are. I chalk it up to nostalgia for the bygone era when Sedaris actually was a lot funnier.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a collection of fable-esque short stories that is similar to that interview: there are a couple of good lines that make you chuckle, but, overall, it’s not as good as Sedaris himself seems to think it is. It is one of those books that is meant to look like a children’s book but is obviously intended for an adult audience (like Go the F**k to Sleep). Each story is about 10 pages long and features a couple of animals, at least one of whom is an asshole. Some of the stories are cute and funny and smart. A couple are five pages of set-up for a not-so-clever punchline. Several are a little too preachy (because, in the end, the asshole animal always gets what’s coming to him).
Basically, this book is like all of David Sedaris’ other short-story collections, except it’s jazzed up with personified animals and fun/creepy drawings. It’s not bad, but it’s not as amazing and hilarious and brilliant and beguiling as the dust jacket would lead you to believe. Its saving grace is that it’s only about 150 pages of large print with a smattering of those darkly cute illustrations, so if it’s on your bookshelf, you might as well read it. It won’t take long.
Rating: 3/5 🐶
It will probably make you laugh once or twice. And it has pictures! Everyone loves pictures!! But you’re not going to go around raving about it. At least you shouldn’t.
Who should read it: my husband (i.e., people with short attention spans for reading, who also happen to like critters a whole lot); my friend Bonnie (i.e., people who think animals are cuter and funnier than people 95% of the time); people who really love David Sedaris (you know who you are).
When you should read it: Aloud on a car trip to your driver (if you haven’t done this before, start doing it immediately. And use voices—it’s the only way); on a short commute (to yourself, silently, please); on the toilet (I’m not a toilet reader myself, but I would imagine it would be good for that).
Instead of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, you should read:
- I Like You by Amy Sedaris. After you watch this video (skip ahead to 1:34), you will realize that she is clearly the funnier famous Sedaris sibling. WARNING: Please do NOT watch this video if you are a prude and/or don’t find crude things funny. You will be offended.
- Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleisher-Camp and watch this clip. It’s an actual kids’ book for actual kids, but it’s great. And that clip is one of the greatest things ever posted on YouTube (no warning necessary).
One final note: the Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk stories are not exactly what I would call lovey-dovey, so I will not be reading any of them in the aforementioned wedding (but I’m still looking for something to read, so keep those suggestions coming!).