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.
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
The controversial winner of The Carnegie Medal in 2014 has arrived in the United States. It is the story of Linus, a teenager living on the streets who is kidnapped and placed in a bunker. The bunker has six bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. In the kitchen are six plates, six cups, six sets of plastic utensils. Each room has a Bible and a notebook and pen. There is is no hot water, only cold. Linus is there alone at first but then others start to arrive. Someone is watching them through the vents in the ceiling, even in the bathroom there are cameras and microphones. That someone responds to written requests for food and supplies via notes sent in the elevator. Until someone does something wrong, then the food stops and the real horror begins.
Brooks has crafted an intense and horrific story here. It could have descended into pure hate and the proof that people are inherently evil. But something else happens here. There is hope, there are dreams, there are memories of human connection, and new connections are forged too. At the same time, there is no denying that it is bleak and desperate and frightening. It is a book that asks what you would do in this circumstance, who you would become. It is a book that challenges, that doesn’t offer easy answers and that is beautifully terrible.
While Linus is the narrator of the book with the story told in his own writing in his notebook, the story is also that of the others in the bunker with him. They are all just as well crafted, their responses to their kidnapping entirely personal and appropriate for who they are, and there are at least two of them who are heroes of the story too. They are the ones that imbue it with humanity and make the book worth the endurance needed to finish it.
Powerful, compellingly written and achingly human, this novel is challenging and exquisite but certainly not for all readers. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Penguin.