Picks and Pans Review: The Squirrel Mother Stories

updated 08/28/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Megan Kelso

Kelso's second collection of graphic short stories shows her impressive range, from the title story about the unfulfilled dreams of two mothers (one human, one squirrel) to the longest, an incisive rewrite of American history that pits Alexander Hamilton against Thomas Jefferson rather than the duelist he actually faced, Aaron Burr. Kelso has sharp powers of observation, and many of her characters have a blank-eyed innocence that serves as a counterpunch to the acuity of the narratives. Perhaps the most haunting entry is "Meow Face," which chronicles a young girl's history with an aunt who "meows" in public. Aunt Kate has strong opinions about fashion—and Chanel and Dior knockoffs in her closet—making for a great dress-up party with Molly one evening. But Kate refuses to venture out in her finery and, when Molly goes out, refuses to let her niece back in. Kelso never spells out Kate's disorder—it confounds the reader as much as it does the now-adult Molly—leaving a puzzle that, like this book, lingers in the mind long after the last panel.

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