The library I work at had a staff tour of the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at UW-Madison this past Spring. CCBC reviews children's literature, has seminars, and advises and tracks book challenges across the U.S.
The CCBC also gets a crap ton of review copies sent to them every year.. Many of the new books are on display at CCBC and I saw Bird and Squirrel on Fire. I liked the title and the illustrations so I reserved a copy. I enjoyed the book.
I would guess the novel is aimed at 4th-6th grade readers. Bird and Squirrel are pals and, according to other titles in this series, have been traveling all over. B&S have now returned to their forest home. Homebody Squirrel is overjoyed to be back. Bird is exuberant as always. But, something scary seems to be traveling around in the woods.
I do not recall the whole plot but B&S meet a red haired female squirrel and Squirrel is immediately tongue tied and bashful. Bird decides the two of them should throw a party at Squirrel's tree. Squirrel does not like disorder and almost faints away at the suggestion. They compromise on an outdoor party.
Things happen and spoilers follow. Bird and Squirrel rescue a young mouse from a warren of vicious rats. Bird and Squirrel get in an argument with a beaver whose massive damn and has blocked water to the forest animals. Bird and Squirrel have a fight and Squirrel is angry about his solitude being interrupted. The rats attack the party. The forest catches on fire. Bird and Squirrel drive off the rats and wreck the damn to flood the fire. Bird dies in the flood.
I was surprised Bird was killed. The novel takes a one year jump in time and Red Squirrel and Squirrel now have a child and named him after Bird. Then Bird knocks on the door, announces he is alive, and said a broken wing and being washed down the river meant he took a while to return.
I was annoyed that Bird was alive. Make up your mind, Burks. But, if you have a successful series you may as well not kill off a main character.