The inaugural Bay Area Book Festival, held this weekend, brought dozens of families to the Berkeley Public Library to listen to a reading of UC Berkeley’s first children’s book, Snackers and the Mysterious Search, printed by Snapfish.
The book was written by members of Berkeley United in Literacy Development, or BUILD, a mentorship program of the UC Berkeley Public Service Center. Each semester the program matches more than 200 Berkeley students with young readers at elementary schools in Berkeley and Oakland.
The story follows a pair of squirrels, Snackers and Snackalot, as they track mysterious footprints from their home in Eucalyptus Grove across the campus on a quest to find an elusive bear. On their journey, they discover a bunch of kid-friendly places, like a dinosaur cast at the Valley Life Sciences Building and the hidden bear statue on South Hall.
Carrie Donovan, one of the book’s authors, says the story’s setting is meant to introduce kids to the campus in a fun and accessible way. “Many of the students we work with haven’t been to campus,” she says. “Hopefully this book encourages them to explore campus and imagine themselves there one day.”
Snackers and Snackalot aren’t the only squirrels in Eucalyptus Grove. Turns out, quite a few real-life squirrels on campus actually have names — like Flame, Whale, even Justin Timberlake — given to them by the scientists who study them. Most of the squirrels they study — usually around 40 to 50 at a time — have distinct markings, like a misshapen tooth or a partially missing tail, which allows scientists to keep track of them over several years.
Now, when young readers visit campus, they’ll have many squirrel friends to show them around.
Here’s a photo slideshow of a live performance of the book that took place on campus last month.