Little Mole’s Wish by Sang-Keun Kim (9780525581345)
Little Mole was heading home alone on the first day of snow, when he met a snowball on the path. He brought the snowball along with him to the bus stop. He waited for a bus, but the driver wouldn’t let him on with a snowball. So Little Mole sculpted the snowball into a bear. But the next driver realized it was still a snowball. So Little Mole gave the snow bear a backpack. The two waited a very long time together for the next bus, long enough that Little Mole shared his hat in case the bear was cold. That bus allowed them both to board. On the warm bus, Little Mole fell asleep and when he woke up his friend was gone. The bus driver urged him to head home, saying his friend must have gotten off at another stop. Little Mole got home and told his grandmother all about his day. When he went to bed, he wondered where his friend had gone. In the morning, his grandmother called him with a big surprise!
There is so much magic about this picture book that was originally published in South Korea. Little Mole is an entirely winning character who problem solves along the way, creating a bear just as charming as he is. The words and illustrations work seamlessly together here as Little Mole builds a friend from snow. Readers will have a series of surprises as the book goes on, including the two riding the bus together and then the final surprise that ensures everyone will know that wishes come true.
Kim’s illustrations are soft and dreamy, done in colored pencil, pastel, pen and digital. They are full of small touches that bring the entire world to life with an owl sleeping in the hollow tree, Mole having a similar teddy bear to the bear he builds from snow, and each bus matching its driver in design, including the final bus having deer antlers.
A perfect read for the first snow. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann (InfoSoup)
With just a few words at the beginning and ending of the book, this nearly wordless picture book looks at progress. It begins with one lone mole moving into a green meadow. He was soon joined by more moles and each dug out space of their very own. Soon there was electricity, plumbing and heat. The shaft got larger and deeper and then large machinery was used to dig the tunnels. The meadow was dotted with mounds. Public transport was added, cities grew up, apartments were jammed closely together, traffic was awful, and the lush green meadow disappeared. But not quite.
Kuhlmann shows human progress but with a mole point of view. His gorgeous illustrations show the wheels of change, the machinery of digging, the way that progress takes over and has a speed all of its own. It is a story that is dark and sad, one that shows that starting with a lone mole and freedom to make choices can quickly turn into a society bound by the machines that once built it. Much like our own, perhaps exactly like our own.
As I mentioned, it is Kuhlmann’s illustrations that show all of this without words. Each illustration is detailed and lush. The little mole homes are cleverly depicted from the happiness of the early days to the jammed apartments at the end. I particularly enjoyed the page filled with paperwork and records with one bored mole at a desk. All of these work together to show what loss was suffered with progress.
A book to start discussions or to pore over on your own, this picture book takes a mole-eye view of what we humans are doing to ourselves. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Over There by Steve Pilcher
Shredder lives all by himself in the big forest. He has a cozy bed in a matchbox under a maple tree, he has plenty to eat which means worms since he’s a shrew, and he has a pet acorn. But acorns can’t talk and Shredder felt that something was missing. So he sets off to see if there is something more out there. Seeing a twinking in the distance, he heads out to see what it is. After a long journey all night, it turns out to be a tiny silver boat and Shredder climbs aboard. But the boat doesn’t float for long. Happily, just as Shredder disappears under the water, a hand reaches out to save him. It’s a mole, named Nosey. As the two of them spend time together, Shredder starts to realize that he has found “something more” after all.
Pilcher’s story is straight forward and speaks directly to loneliness and the journey to find a new friend. He incorporates clever elements that create wonderful quiet moments in the book. The time that Shredder spends with his silent acorn pet, the question of what the shining thing in the distance is, the floating moments on the water, the warmth of new friendship.
What is most special about the book though is the art. Done by Disney Press as part of their Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase, it will come as no surprise that the entire book reads like an animated movie. The backgrounds on the page have a cinematic depth to them. Shredder himself is immensely likeable as a character, a tiny shrew often dwarfed by the world around him.
A fine picture book, this book is very appealing thanks to its friendly art and the jolly adventure at its heart. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Spring Is Here by Will Hillenbrand
Mole wakes up and tries to figure out if spring has arrived. He sniffs the air, tiptoes past Bear’s room and then squishes mud under his feet. He knows that spring is here. But when he tries to wake up Bear to let him know, Bear just keeps on snoring. So Mole comes up with a way to get Bear to wake up. It involves gathering eggs, milking a cow, churning the milk, pouring, mixing, and baking. When he presents Bear with his surprise though, Mole is the one so tired from his efforts that he is snoring.
Hillenbrand has created a charming picture book from a very simple concept, making a book that is ideal to share with toddlers. Sounds have been sprinkled nicely throughout the book, energizing the story. With only a few lines per page, the pacing of the book will work well read aloud to small children. Towards the end, the pacing picks up even more as Mole works on his idea to wake up Bear.
The artwork in the book adds to the story’s cozy feel. The mixed media illustrations have a warmth thanks to their soft lines and homey subject. Filled with small touches, a complete world is created where friendship between a mole and bear makes perfect sense.
Add this to your spring story time pile, especially if you read to the smallest of children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.