Evergreen cover
Evergreen by Matthew Cordell

By Matthew Cordell
Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan, 2023
48 pages

Ages 4-8

The list of things that frighten a young squirrel named Evergreen is long: “Afraid of loud noises. Afraid of meeting someone new. Afraid of heights, afraid of swimming, afraid of germs. And thunderstorms–her very worst fear was thunderstorms.” When Mama tasks Evergreen with taking soup to ailing Granny Oak, Evergreen sets off despite her fears. This captivating picture book chronicling Evergreen’s journey through Buckthorn Forest is divided into parts, each with its own dramatic arc. In “Briar,” Evergreen helps a rabbit in need, who proceeds to steal the soup. “Ember” sees Evergreen, having reclaimed the soup, caught by a hawk. Evergreen meets a young, frightened toad stuck in the middle of a river in “Spring & Squirt.” She finally arrives at Granny Oak’s in “The Bear,” but the twists, turns, and surprises aren’t over.  Every time Evergreen encounters one of the things that frightens her, she repeats the words “I … can do it.” By the time she returns home, she’s feeling triumphant … if not for long. A story with abundant drama and humor has subtle references to western fairy tales and fables throughout (e.g., Evergreen’s red cloak; a predator in need). The color brown predominates in pen-and-watercolor images that include muted tones of other hues. From the creatures’ expressive eyes to the blend of realism (renderings of fur and feathers and amphibian skin), and fancy (they wear clothes), the images are as exactingly and charmingly detailed as the story itself.  ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center