“Floy filled the hours by talking to the family’s pet parrot, balancing on a plank by the woodpile, making mud pies, and capturing frogs.” – Not the typical activities for a young girl in the mid 1800s. Nicknamed “Squirrel” by her family for her antics in Yosemite Valley, Floy was definitely a tomboy and quickly latched on to her father’s new handyman, the naturalist John Muir. Squirrel and John Muir by Emily Arnold McCully is a fictionalized account of their meeting in 1868 when John Muir was hired.
In the story, Floy finds him fascinating. She endlessly follows him, trying to gross him out with a lizard, trailing after him on his hikes, chasing after him in the snow, and watching him talk to the flowers or listen to the trees. John Muir was someone else who didn’t quite fit in with society’s expectations and in him Floy finds a kindred spirit. He helps Floy use a magnifying glass, teaches her the names of animals, birds and plants and takes her into the mountains where he was trying to find support for his theory that Yosemite Valley had been formed by glaciers. While working for Hutchings, John Muir submits an article to a New York newspaper with his theory and more tourists begin to arrive leading to a confrontation between Muir and Hutchings and final goodbyes in the mountains overlooking Yosemite Valley with Floy.
John Muir lived in Yosemite Valley from 1868 to 1874 and he only worked for Hutchings for two years, but he left an indelible mark on the area, being instrumental in the creation of a National Park in 1890. Yosemite Valley is now part of Yosemite National Park. Squirrel and John Muir is a good introduction to the naturalist and the importance of following your dreams.
Floy’s father, John Hutchings, organized the first tourist party to Yosemite Valley in 1855 and it’s been a popular destination ever since. There are a variety of lodging options from hotels to campgrounds and everything in between, but with 3,853,404 visitors in 2012, be sure to make your reservations early!