This is a Taco! is a book that satisfies the need for an imaginative story that’s also educational. The book begins with a couple of pages of squirrel facts, with Taco the squirrel acting out the facts (whether he likes it or not). On one page, the text describes how flying squirrels can glide in the air for long distances, while Taco the squirrel is flung from the tree he was climbing as he protests “you’ve got the wrong squirrel! My cousin Barry is the flyer in the family!” Taco puts up with these conflicts until a rather dangerous one is mentioned—hawks eat squirrels. At this, Taco panics and jumps out of the illustrated scene to cover the offending text, changing it with a red pen at the very last second. With his edits, the hawks vanish and tacos appear, to his great delight, and he continues to change the story to suit his desires.

This playful picture book hybrid is short and sweet. The art wonderfully represents the dual educational and humorous nature of the book, with pretty and realistic woodland scenes, including a delightfully detailed hawk, and comical characters drawn in more cartoonish style. The art also acknowledges how Taco breaks the fourth wall, creating a more dynamic reading experience. When Taco lands in the mud with a great WHAM! after demonstrating the “grace” of flying squirrels, the pages are drawn as if they moved with him, shifting downwards to show a peek of the pages underneath. The impact causes dirt to fly out in all directions, beyond the confines of the illustrated scene, breaking free of the picture book panels and keeping the reader on their toes in terms of what they might expect of the story.

The book also has gorgeous endpapers that demonstrate Taco’s shift in how he’s represented in the story; the front endpapers have a pattern of acorns and oak leaves, factually representing your average squirrel, while the back of the book is covered with tacos, avocados, and tortilla chips, representing the story he writes himself into, as a squirrel who loves to eat tacos.

The writing makes this book a little more engaging than your average book on squirrels. In addition to presenting the facts, it sends readers the message that they are in charge of their own stories and can free themselves from preconceived expectations. This title was a 2019 Eisner Award nominee in the category of best publication for early readers. Readers who enjoyed this book should be sure to check out Cangelose and Shipley’s other book, This is a Whoopsie!, presenting a similarly styled book about a moose.

This is a Taco!
By Andrew Cangelose
Art by Josh Shipley
ISBN: 9781941302729
Lion Forge/Cubhouse, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 6-10

  • Maria Aghazarian

    Past Reviewer

    Maria Aghazarian is a librarian at Swarthmore College and the Lower Merion library system, in the stretch of southeastern Pennsylvania otherwise known as the “greater Philadelphia area.” Her love of graphic novels started with manga in middle school, but exploded after graduating college when she learned that superheroes aren’t the be-all and end-all of comics. She aims to support small and independent presses, and manufacturers of sturdy bookcases.

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