CHIRP! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend by Jamie A. Swensen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

 
CHIRP! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend 

by Jamie A. Swensen

illustrated by Scott Magoon

Review Copy from Simon & Schuster

There are a lot of things that feel familiar about CHIRP! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend, starting with the woodland setting where a chipmunk sits on a rock and sings from sunup to sundown, longing for a friend to sing along with. Common picture book themes of making friends, being yourself, and not giving up wrap around less common themes of sadness and frustration, the expression of these difficult emotions and finding others who can be present for, supportive of, and even sympathize and empathize in the presence of these emotions.

Mostly, Chipmunk's songs were happy, but sometimes they were, "bittersweet. And sometimes her songs were very sad indeed." Magoon's illustrations capture the the joy (and cuteness) of Chirp as she sings, the literal expression of her songs flooding the pages with color and movement. When she is happy, warm reds, pinks and oranges dominate. When Chipmunk's songs are bittersweet and sad, a pool of darkness seeps in, sometimes with sharp, needly edges. Singing a song of loneliness and defeat after a failed attempt to find yet another (inanimate) friend, a raccoon hears Chipmunk's song, calling it beautiful and asking Chipmunk to keep on singing. Soon, Chipmunk and Raccoon are singing a "bittersweet song about friendship and defeat," with a bit about frustration added in. Moose hears and, rather than be scared of  or repelled this sad song that is in the hearts of Raccoon and Chipmunk, Moose appreciates their "beautiful song." Now, when Chipmunk's songs are sometimes bittersweet or "very sad indeed," Raccoon and Moose are there to sing along.

I grew up in a family where expressing difficult emotions was met with silence or ignored. There was no one who could tolerate to my bittersweet and very sad songs. I have spent most of my adult life learning how to cope with these challenging emotions and feeling safe expressing them in front of others while also creating a safe environment where my children could sing their sad songs and be heard. While a chipmunk, raccoon and moose may stand in for human friends or even a child and parents/caregivers, the meaning will resonate with young readers. CHIRP! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend shows children that expressing sadness and frustration is safe, is important and that these hard feelings can be shared with others who will support you and maybe even sing along with you. 

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