Aug 11, 2021

CHIRP! Singing the Praises of Talented Creators

A Paula Wiseman Book, 2021

I'll get right to the point here: Get your hands on this new picture book and let your heart sing. 

When I first heard about CHIRP! CHIPMUNK SINGS FOR A FRIEND with words by Jamie A. Swenson and Illustrations by Scott Magoon, my imagination ran wild. I've been a fan of both creators for more than a decade, and the thought of their combined talents had me eager to see this July release. Swenson is a master of emotional nuance and she uses language to convey those emotions with the expertise of a symphony conductor. Magoon has created some of my favorite picture books (CHOPSTICKS, BREATHE, and STRAW, among others), each of which blend colorful and energetic images with lighthearted, aww-inspiring charm. I can't think of a pair I'd trust more to produce a memorable story starring my all-time favorite woodland (backyard) critters, chipmunks.  

When I first saw the cover on a screen, I imagined a large and expansive size, with room for the kind of forest scenes that made Swenson's A FALL BALL FOR ALL so gorgeous. (Get this timely choice while you're at it!) 

Then my library copy came in and I was DEE-LIGHT-ED to find a much smaller, kid-sized trim on this delightful new offering. Picture that cheeky chipmunk on the cover as true-to-life size, surrounded to scale, and you'll se why the size of the book feels utterly perfect for this character, Chipmunk. 

That's right, this singing little sweetie has no need for cutesie names. Her personality and mission say it all, conveying her gigantic heart and soulful self-assurance in story rather than descriptions or labels.

Every day Chipmunk sings her song: happy, bittersweet, or even "very sad indeed". She sings to the world, to her faithful rock (who is a very good listener) and to the sun and stars. But she craves a friend to sing along. Not a quitter, Chipmunk expands her world, appreciating each addition she discovers, but finally resigning herself to her destiny... to sing alone. That's when the power of her songs and her willingness to embrace her gifts, alone, releases songs with the sweetest of resolutions.

The nature of nature, and the nature of friendships, star equally in this unforgettable story. What we expect of each (nature, friendships, ourselves)  can and will shape our ability to find joy and satisfaction in the world. Acceptance of things for what they are, appreciation for the ways strength can surround us, and a willingness to follow our own natures are themes that rise to the surface of a seemingly simple animal story. That means this, like the best of picture books, is ideally suited to every age.

If you aren't sold from that synopsis, you've got a heart much harder than Chipmunk's faithful friend, rock. And you most certainly do not live with chipmunks surrounding you. As an unabashed squirrel and bird and bunny and fawn fan, I will readily admit that chipmunks are my favorites. Yes, they dig up gardens and eat bulbs and undermine my patio and ... more. Even so, it takes only a glance at one of my many chipmunk residents, perched under a window or on a rail or on the rim of a birdbath, to make me pause, mid-step, and wait for the song. 

From now on, I plan to sing along.


  1. Thank you for reading & sharing ❤ my work.

    1. You are more than welcome, Jamie. Chipmunk feels like a friend, and anytime she needs a friend to sing with, I'm in!


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.