Skunks (Little Pebble), by Mari Schuh
This is a particularly adorable book. To be sure, it is not a complicated read, by any means, but it is the sort of book that is designed to tell children in very simple and straightforward terms how it is that skunks live and, furthermore, that it is wise to be cautious and careful about them. It is telling, though, that there are different moods about skunks in books depending on the age range they are written for. A book written to a small child might well inform a pre-reader that a skunk with its tail up and bouncing up and down or doing handstands is a skunk that is about to lash out in self-defense. On the other hand, a book written to an older child might well remind the reader that although the skunk has defenses, one does not need to be afraid of it. It is hard to properly set the tone of concern someone needs when dealing with a skunk. The lack of subtle understanding of the young may very well lead them to fear an animal that is quite as anxious and fearful as one might imagine. It’s hard to teach little children to be careful without being afraid, though, sometimes.
This book’s text is pretty rudimentary. That said, it’s not as if the text is unpleasant or unhelpful in explaining how skunks behave. The first chapter of the book reasonably discusses the bad smell that a skunk has, assuming that the reader might smell the skunk before seeing it, giving a look at the skunk’s colors as a means of giving it a wide berth. Yet the discussion of how skunks hiss when danger is near and raise their tails before spraying are designed to warn the young listener or reader of the book that skunks are capable of defending themselves and the warning signs to note before fleeing the scene. The second chapter of the book looks at night and day, noting that skunks are nocturnal animals that tend to hunt at night and rest during the day, which lets the reader know what time of day one is likely to find them, if one wanted to. As a fan of skunks, I’m not sure that spreading terror about them is the wisest policy, but having known a lot of rather dumb children in life, it makes sense that one would want to warn those who were likely to get sprayed, even if a gentle approach was likely to earn one a lifelong love of the rather unpopular animal.