Torres, having previously collaborated with Faith Erin Hicks on the Bigfoot Boy trilogy, returns with another Bigfoot story and a new illustrator. Torres addresses some of the same themes in this story; feeling out of place, trying to find your niche, and discovering the magic of the woods, but overall How To Spot a Sasquatch is a much more lighthearted story for a younger audience.
Short chapters tell the story of Jay, a junior ranger who’s on a camping trip. He’s determined to prove that there is a Sasquatch in the woods, but the other kids tease him and even their ranger leader kindly tells him there’s no such thing as a Sasquatch. Unbeknownst to them all though, there’s a parallel story running behind the scenes; a curious young Sasquatch named Sass and her woodland friends are hanging around their campsite and amusing themselves playing tricks! When Sass hears the other campers making fun of Jay, she helps him out and eventually the two meet. Will Jay keep his new friend a secret or reveal her to the world to show up all the doubters?
The campers are a mixed group, each one identified only by their ranger names as birds. Their leader, Ranger Dove, appears to be indigenous. Martin (for purple martin) is black, Robin is a white girl, Wren is a white boy, and Jay appears to be Asian. Sass the Sasquatch has a pug nose, a coat of orange fur and her bare face, hands, and feet are white. She’s shown about average adult human size, with sturdy limbs and muscles that easily allow her to lead her forest friends in playing tricks and, with a lot of effort, knock over a tree to save Jay at an opportune moment.
Grand has a light touch and her illustrations bring out the humor, as well as the frustration, of Jay as he determinedly continues on his way, ignoring the sometimes cruel teasing of the others as he follows his dream. The woods are a bright collage of many different greens with the splash of Sass’s orange fur and countless tiny details, such as the whiskers on her forest friends, her bracelets of berries, and the recycled “furniture” in her cave with her bear family.
The text is simple and bold and well-matched to the sequential panels. This makes an excellent beginning chapter book for an intermediate reader; the text is mirrored by the actions and scenery in the panels, so they can pick up clues to the plot and characters both from the art and the words. The speech bubbles are carefully laid out to make it easy to follow the action and the story, although mildly scary at some points, is mostly funny and lighthearted. Jay is clearly not really bothered by the teasing, not even noticing most of it, and in the end it’s clear he’s happy with the choice he’s made and the friends he has.
Hand this one to fans of Torres’ Bigfoot Boy, Braddock’s Stinky Cecil, and the Scholastic Branches series.
How To Spot a Sasquatch
By J. Torres
Art by Aurelie Grand
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Picture Books (3-8), Easy Readers (5-9)
Character Traits: Multiracial