kinda magical query objects
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Squirrell is a kinda magical library intended to make it easier to simplify your relationship with ActiveRecord. ActiveRecord provides an immense amount of flexibility and power, and it's really easy to let this functionality become more-and-more intense. Controllers doing arbitrary wheres, other models doing a find_by, maybe even a hidden finder in the views somewhere. This level of decoupling makes things difficult to test and obscures the lines in your application.

Squirrell makes it easy to create finders and query objects that respond very well to testing and are easy to mock.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'squirrell'


Run the install generator to copy the initializer, add app/queries to Rails autoload, and provide an example query:

$ rails generate sqrl:install


Configuring Squirrell

If you want to use any raw SQL or Arel querying, you'll need to provide Squirrell with an executor. An executor responds to :call, accepts a single argument, and executes that argument as a SQL query. It doesn't really have to execute a SQL query, though. It just probably should.

To configure Squirrell, you can do a block in an initializer somewhere:

Squirrell.configure do |sqrl|
  sqrl.executor = -> (sql) { ActiveRecord::Base.connection.execute(sql) }

Using a Squirrell query class

Squirrell query classes have a very limited external interface. They respond to .find and return the result of the query. As a result, they're very easy to mock: allow(ComplexQuery).to receive(:find).and_return(your_stubs)

(hah hah, silly squirrell)


UserFinder.find(id: 6)
WizardByElementAndPet.find(element: :ice, pet: :penguin)
HeroByName.find(name: "Finn")

Defining a Squirrell

There are currently three queries supported by Squirrell: #finder, #arel, and #raw_sql.

Finders are the simplest. They just return the result of the #finder method.

class UserFinder
  include Squirrell

  requires :id

  def finder

  def process(result) { |user| "Happy birthday, #{}!" }

The requires :id line indicates what parameters must be passed to find. An error will be raised if a required parameter is missing or if an extra parameter is passed. The symbols in the hash are made into instance variables of the same name. attr_readers are provided for them, so you can refer to them without @.

After the finding method gets called, #process gets called with the result of the query. In the previous example, result would be an array, and it would convert the found users into a string wishing them a happy birthday. The return value of process is ultimately what the return value of UserFinder.find will be.

Arel finders are meant to be used in conjunction with the Arel gem. In truth, the only requirement is that the return value of the #arel method respond to :to_sql.

class WizardByElementAndPet
  include Squirrell

  requires :element, :pet

  def arel
    wizards = Wizard.arel_table

Finally, Squirrell can do raw SQL. Define #raw_sql on the Squirrell class and it'll use the executor. The string returned by raw_sql is passed directly to the executor. Currently, it doesn't do anything clever to escape it.

class HeroByName
  include Squirrell

  requires :name

  def raw_sql
    "SELECT FROM heroes WHERE = '#{name}'"

Sometimes, you just want to return a bunch of models, and the finder has you totally covered. Other times, the array-of-arrays or array-of-column-hashes are all you need. When that isn't the case, Squirrell provides a #process hook that receives the result of the query and can do whatever it wants with it.

class HeroByName
  # ...
  def process(result)
    puts result
    # => #<PG::Result:0x981723098 status=PGRES_TUPLES_OK etc....>
    puts result.values
    # => [["1"],["42"]]

HeroByName.find(name: "Finn")
# => [#<Hero:0x0987123 name="Finn" weapon="Grass Sword", etc...]

Squirrell allows you to define optional permitted parameters:

class PermissionExample
  include Squirrell

  requires :user_id
  permits :post_id

  def raw_sql
FROM users
  INNER JOIN posts ON = posts.user_id
WHERE = #{user_id} #{has_post?}

  def has_post?
    post_id ? "AND = #{post_id}" : ""

Generally, this makes for more complex queries. If you're finding that you're customizing with a bunch of permits, you may want to make a new query object.

Rails Generator

Squirrell has a generator for queries.

$ rails generate sqrl:query QueryName id name --type=raw_sql
  • QueryName is the name of the query object.
  • --type= can either be raw_sql, finder, or arel. The default is finder
  • The remaining elements are the required parameters for the query. The default is id.

Testing Squirrells

Mocking Squirrels is really easy. expect(QueryObject).to receive(:find).and_return(results) will capture the desired behavior in calling classes.

Testing Squirrells has two components: testing that the interaction with the database works as expected, and testing that the post-processing method works as expected.

For basic ActiveRecord finders, it's not really necessary to test .find. ActiveRecord is well-tested and unlikely to be cause problems. For Arel and raw SQL queries that have a bit more complexity, you'll likely want to actually touch the database in these tests.

describe HeroByName do
  before :all do
    let(:finn) { create(:hero, name: "Finn") }
    let(:jake) { create(:hero, name: "Jake") }

  it 'finds by name' do
    result = HeroByName.find(name: "Finn")
    expect(result).to include(finn)
    expect(result).to_not include(jake)

You can gain access to the underlying Squirrell with .new, which lets you test the process method and any other methods you choose to define on the class.

class MathQuery
  include Squirrell

  requires :math

  def process(result)
    result * 5

describe MathQuery do
  let(:subject) { }

  it 'multiples result by 5' do
    expect(subject.process(5)).to eq(25)

Generally, it'll be easiest to use and test the code if process is a pure function of it's input. If you need to refer to those values, you can pass the parameters in to new: "so cool").


  1. Test helpers and test generators.
  2. A test hook that runs queries and caches them, similar to VCR.


After checking out the repo, run bin/setup to install dependencies. Then, run bin/console for an interactive prompt that will allow you to experiment.

To install this gem onto your local machine, run bundle exec rake install. To release a new version, update the version number in version.rb, and then run bundle exec rake release to create a git tag for the version, push git commits and tags, and push the .gem file to


  1. Fork it ([my-github-username]/squirrell/fork )
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create a new Pull Request