Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘James Burks

It pays to make friends with your local librarian. They might lend you silly books! After chatting with our school librarian about my current reading project of graphic novels, she lent me one of her favorites: Bird and Squirrel on the Run by James Burks. It’s hilarious and cute.

Bird and Squirrel on the Run features three main characters, of which I am most unlike Bird. When Bird first shows up on the pages, he’s flying around singing about what a wonderful day it is and greeting everyone he meets. Haven’t we all met perky people like this? Next thing Bird is getting Squirrel into trouble AND joking their way out of trouble. Ah, wouldn’t I love to achieve this finesse? Later, when Bird and Squirrel decide hitting the road is their safest option, Bird never falters in his optimism. The two can fly, they can walk, they can sleep under the stars…. What I admire most about Bird is that even when Squirrel shoots down all of Bird’s ideas, Bird is not fazed. Nope, instead he asks a most sensible question: “So, what’s it going to be? Hit the open road with me or stay here and starve to death?” In asking this question, Bird proves that those “the sun is always shining” people have their use: they also keep the rest of going, going, going when all we see is clouds. Yay, for our positive friends!

The character who I most resemble is Squirrel. When Bird first meets Squirrel, he asks, “Who are you hiding from?” Squirrel not only tells him Cat, but also elaborates: “Don’t you know cats are responsible for 47 percent of all squirrel deaths in a year?” See, Squirrel not only knows his fears, but he has well thought out reasons for those fears. There’s more. When Bird asks Squirrel to hang out, Squirrel tells him in no uncertain terms, “I’ve got work to do.” And, yes, Squirrel follows up with an explanation. “Winter is almost here and if I don’t store up enough food … I’ll STARVE!” See, Squirrel not only knows what chores he needs to do, but he has logical explanations why they’re more important than enjoying a beautiful day. Last example! After everything goes wrong, Squirrel has all these super fantastic excuses for not joining Bird: He doesn’t like to travel; New things give him stomachaches; He has a fear of meteorites. Not only am I Squirrel, but many of my students are. They will so relate to Squirrel and yet (I suspect) find him so silly because of all his many, many, many fears. Incidentally, my husband admires me because of my strong work ethic, but I love him because of his spontaneous ways.


Then there’s Cat. Shh! Don’t tell our foster dog, but I see a little of Cat in him. 🙂 Our foster dog has a stubborn streak in him when it comes to getting what he wants. And so does Cat! It doesn’t matter where Bird and Squirrel lead him, but Cat is determined to hunt them down. He falls into a waterfall, ventures into a thunderstorm, waits outside a mole hole…. anything in the name of catching Bird and Squirrel. Cat also has a scary big mouth, big teeth, big eyes. In that way he’s different from our foster dog, although our foster dog does have a disgruntled growl. At this point, I’ll end the comparisons because I want the best for our foster dog, but am not so sure I feel the same about that nasty Cat.

Hmm, now that I have reread Bird and Squirrel on the Run, I might just have to delay returning it to our librarian. I can think of some fifth-grade boys who will find this graphic novel a hoot. They might also like trying to draw the characters, for which instructions can be found on Burks’ website. What a delightful loan!

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

This is Squirrel. He’s afraid of his own shadow. This is Bird. He doesn’t have a care in the world. And this is Cat. He wants to eat Bird and Squirrel. Of course, he’ll have to catch them first and that’s not going to be easy.

The above description comes from the back cover of Bird and Squirrel on the Run, a graphic novel by James Burks and published by Scholastic.


James Burks has spent the last fifteen years working in the animation industry. Some movies that you might recognize his work from include: Atlantis, Emperor’s New Groove, Iron Giant, and Treasure Planet. Ironically, he started writing and illustrating his own books as an outlet for his creativity while working in animation. He would work on animated films during the day and his own stuff at night. Besides loving to tell stories with art, he likes to eat tacos and to run.

At Illustration.Org, he offers this advice to aspiring artists: “Draw constantly , write a lot, and even though the notes may seem bad they usually end up making the book better. Just keep putting stuff out there and make each one better than the last.”

You can also learn more about James Burks in this video:


Below are links to drawing squirrel and cat!

And here’s one to a coloring sheet of both characters:

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