By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman
Released April 14, 2015
Mouse wakes up early to start work on the new story she wants to write. It is a quiet story about a mouse who is setting the table. But before she can get any farther in her story, exuberant Frog hops in and starts adding new elements to the story, including cake, a king, and lots of ice cream. Meanwhile Mouse is trying to mop up all of the mess of the spilled tea, melting ice cream, while Frog gets completely out of control and takes over entirely. Finally Mouse has had enough and yells that Frog is not listening at all! They erase the entire mess of Frog’s story and start again with just Mouse’s ideas of morning tea. Frog is forlorn, unable to help until Mouse realizes that there is room in the story for her quiet ideas and Frog’s wild ones.
Freedman shows without any didactic tone that collaboration on stories and art is possible, as long as everyone listens, communicates and compromises. In fact, the end result is a lot more lovely! Showing that wild ideas are not the best way to come up with a story, but that also quiet thoughts have value, is a wonderful show of support for quieter thinkers. At the same time, that wild moment of Frog’s makes the entire book work, showing how out of control and wonderful some ideas can be. It’s a balanced look at creativity and collaboration that is welcoming and inclusive.
As always Freedman’s art is exceptional. Once again she does washes of watercolor that are gorgeously messy and free. The spilled tea and other elements of Frog’s story embrace all of that. Mouse’s story is shown in pencil drawings that are childlike and rough while also being very neat and structured. They show each characters personality clearly. At the end, it is a lovely marriage of the two styles, filled with bright colors and yet neat as a pin.
Creative and great fun to share aloud, this picture book demonstrates how teamwork and collaboration should work. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.
Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
A little mouse lives in a hole in a meadow under a clump of dandelions. In the spring, he heads out of his home and explores the area around him. He sees a snail, a woodpecker and buzzing bees. He also sees himself reflected in a puddle. And each day he brings home a seed that he stores away in his storeroom. In the summer, the little mouse watches beavers building a dam in the pond, visits a toad, and sees a porcupine. He brings a sprig of watercress home each day and adds that to his storeroom. In autumn, the little mouse watches geese flying, ants marching, and brings home an acorn to his storeroom which is filling up. In winter snow falls and the little mouse can’t see the grass anymore. He heads right back into his hole and stays there, well fed and warm.
This picture book explores seasons and the changes seasons bring in nature from a gentle and cheerful mouse perspective. It captures the natural rhythms by echoing them in the writing. Little mouse leaves his hole the same way no matter what the season, by counting to three and popping out. Then he explores, discovering three things in nature to pay attention to. Some small and some large. Schertle’s tone invites young readers to take a look at the nature outside their own holes and visit it each day to see the changing seasons.
Yue’s illustrations also show nature as a place to safely visit and explore. The illustrations celebrate nature and its beauty and variety. They also pay homage to classic stories like Peter Rabbit while down in the mouse’s burrow with his homey furniture and then his baking and soup making in the winter months.
A simple story, but one that has a wonderful rhythm and poetry to it that moves it to the top of the large pile of seasonal stories. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
Hermelin: The Detective Mouse by Mini Grey
Released August 5, 2014.
Hermelin is a mouse who lives in the attic of Number 33 Offley Street. His attic is filled with books and boxes and a typewriter that Hermelin uses to write with. When Hermelin notices that the Offley Street Notices board is filled with people missing things, he knows just what he has to do. So he starts working as a mouse detective and solving the mysteries of Offley Street. He does this by noticing things and then leaving typed notes for the people to help them find their missing items. Then when tragedy almost strikes the youngest person on Offley Street, Hermelin is the one to save the day! Soon everyone wants to know exactly who this Hermelin person is, so they invite him to a thank you party in his honor. He just isn’t quite what they were expecting…
A new Mini Grey book is always a treat and this one is perfectly lovely. Hermelin is a winning character with plenty of pluck as he goes about solving mysteries. Happily, the mysteries are just as small as Hermelin himself, making the book all the more jaunty and fun. Grey spends some time showing Hermelin’s attic and how he lives. The small details here add a rich warmth to the book and it is also the details that create such a vibrant world on Offley Street with the humans as well.
Done in her signature style, the illustrations are filled with details. One can read the cereal box, the milk carton, and the titles on the books as well as giggling at the flavors of cat food on the shelf. Hermelin himself is a lovely white mouse with inquisitive eyes and a face that shows emotions clearly. The entire book is a pleasure to immerse yourself into and simply enjoy.
Clever and filled with adventure, the vast appeal of this detective story is no mystery at all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Where’s Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Released March 11, 2014.
I am so pleased to see a follow-up story to Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary! This new book focuses on the daughters of Mary and Mouse. Maria is a little girl who has a mouse for a best friend named Mouse Mouse. The two of them never reveal to anyone else that they know one another because otherwise the mice would either be driven off or have to move. The two girls live parallel lives, getting ready for bed in the same way and both calling for their mothers at the same time. But both mothers are nowhere to be found! The search is on by both girl and mouse to figure out where their mothers have gone. They both look all over their homes, check with their fathers, and ask their siblings. Nothing. Then they notice a light on in the shed and both head directly for it. And if you read the first book, you will know exactly who they will find in the shed.
Donofrio has written a clever parallel story that reveals the lives of two friends. The upstairs downstairs aspect of the book has incredible appeal as does the wee details of mouse life. There are little touches throughout the book that make the text charming and lovely. Her pacing is also adept and keeps the entire book moving along and yet completely appropriate for bedtime reading.
So much charm and style comes from the illustrations. I particularly enjoy looking closely at the world of the mice created from borrowed items from the human home. These little touches truly create a world under the floor that any reader would love to discover or live in themselves. The illustrations are rich with color and details, worthy of lingering over when you aren’t quite ready for lights out.
Beautifully written and lovingly illustrated, this book is a suitable companion to the first. They both stand alone fully on their own, but I’d think that anyone finding out there was another in the series would want to read them both, probably back to back. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC received from Schwartz & Wade.
Who Goes There? by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Anna Currey
On this bitter cold day in Wisconsin, it’s a treat to review a book that has a little mouse preparing for the winter cold. Lewis lived alone in the base of a tall tree. He prepared for winter by stuffing his home with leaves, twigs and grass. Once he was cozy inside though he realized that something was missing. Then he heard a noise that wasn’t the wind. It was a scratching and tapping noise. Lewis shouted “Who goes there!” but no one answered. Could it be a cat? An owl? A bear? As the noise repeated, Lewis continued to yell. Eventually, he was out in the wind and night investigating the sounds. Lewis will discover not only what is making the sound but exactly what he is missing too.
Wilson, author of the very popular Bear Snores On series, has another winning animal character. Lewis is a gutsy little mouse who shouts at strange noises and then investigates them despite his fears. Wilson uses lots of repetition here, making it perfect for sharing aloud. The noises always have the same pattern of sounds and Lewis always shouts back the same reply. This helps build tension in the story as well, just enough for little ones to be fully engrossed in the tale.
Currey’s illustrations have a great play of contrasts between the warm light of Lewis’ hole filled with tiny furniture and nuts and the wild blue of the outside at night. Both are equally lovely, the browns and golds of Lewis’ home shine while the deep blues of the outside glimmer with moonlight.
A perfect bedtime read for a cold day, this book is also a great choice for autumn story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Is It Big or Is It Little? by Claudia Rueda
Explore opposites and perspective in this little book. It is the story of a mouse and a cat, who chase across the pages, changing the perspective the reader sees from on each page. Is the ball of yarn big as seen by the mouse? Or is it little when seen by the cat? Deep water for the mouse becomes shallow when the cat heads in. Light objects for the mouse are heavy for ants. And even the most scary creature can also be scared themselves.
Rueda’s text is done in simple questions that show the opposite concepts clearly. The real draw of this book are the illustrations which have a minimalism that is very appealing. Done entirely in grays, black and orange, the illustrations have a pop edge to them that is both graphically pleasing and has great touches of humor.
Bright and bold, this book approaches opposites and perspective with a clever storyline and elegant illustrations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck
I thoroughly enjoyed Peck’s first mouse characters in Secrets at Sea, so I looked forward to meeting more whiskered characters in this new book. The two books are unrelated except for Peck’s elaborate mouse society which has the same charm as The Borrowers or The Littles. In this book, we meet a little mouse who really doesn’t even have a name. He has no idea where he came from, but he is now cared for by his Aunt Marigold who is the Head Needlemouse in the Royal Mews in London. He is sent to school at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy, where he is quickly bullied by bigger mice. Finally, he ruins all of his prospects by appearing in front of a human wearing clothing. Now he has to find his own way, his destiny and his past.
Peck weaves a fine adventure in this book. The romp of mishaps and close scrapes make for fun reading as does the mystery of this little mouse’s past. Add to that the appeal of being near royalty, even speaking directly with Queen Victoria herself, and you have a book where you never know what is going to happen next.
The writing is skilled and detailed. Peck offers action enough for any book but also builds a wonderful second, shadow society with the mice too. There is just enough detail to tantalize and clearly visualize the world, but not so much that the story slows. In fact, the pacing here is superb.
Fans of Stuart Little and The Borrowers will enjoy discovering life in the Royal Mews and a little nameless mouse with a big destiny. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial.
Mice by Rose Fyleman, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Ehlert has combined her bright collage illustrations with a poem from Rose Fyleman. The poem is all about why mice are nice. They have small faces, pink ears and white teeth. No one else seems to like mice, because they run around the house at night and nibble on things. But in the end, mice are nice.
It’s a very simple poem with a wonderful playful spirit. Ehlert’s illustrations add to that playfulness with her triangular mice who run their jaunty way through the pages. The two of them are a delight as they munch on Cheerios in the baggie, try on lipstick, and peek into mirrors. Ehlert labels objects in her illustrations too, offering new words as vocabulary.
This is one fun picture book filled with bright illustrations and a cheery attitude. And I think it and mice are nice too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Helen Ward
Never has there been such a beautiful example of this Aesop Fable. This is the classic tale of the county mouse who is happy in the simplicity of the country until his cousin from the city comes to visit with his claims of the wonders there. The country mouse goes to visit, discovering things like elevators, electric lights, and enormous banquets. But when they are both chased by a city pet, in this case a little dog, the country mouse realizes that while the city is fast-moving and filled with bright lights, he misses his quiet life in the country. Merrily, the book ends with an image of the city mouse asleep in a wheel of expensive cheese.
It is the illustrations here that make this such a noteworthy book. Ward takes special care in depicting the beauty of the countryside and the country life. She moves between seasons, the apple tree decked in pink blossoms and then hearty with ripe apples. The two mice are shown without any little clothes or any anthropomorphic touches. Instead these are two sleek and life-like creatures.
The illustrations are sumptuous, rich and superb. They invite you to explore the county and the city and see beauty in both. They bring you into the cozy winter nest of the country mouse. They linger on the many blossoms of the country landscape. They focus you close in from a mouse point of view.
Highly recommended, this book belongs in library collections for both its beauty and the simple way it is written. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.