I requested and received an advance copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.
With traces of The Mouse and The Lion fable, this is like The Gruffalo’s Big Bad Mouse grown up – older, cooler, wiser…and luckier! – but still trying to avoid bring eaten by owl and fox.
But here any similarity ends, this is most definitely not a wannabe Gruffalo in any way at all. It’s something quite unique and would be perfect to whip out in response to the ‘you’re too old for picture books’ line. I can see this being very popular with all ages, but feel that it would be especially popular with those just on what is traditionally ‘the way out’ of picture books, around 6-8.
The illustration style is very different to most picture books, having more in the way of a comic or anime style, which I can see appealing greatly, especially to older children.
Equally appealing is the visual humour and expression which fill the pictures. There is also great detail to them, with plenty to pore over; my favourite spreads were the underground ones where I did just this.
The story itself is a clever and amusing tale of friendship which avoids the sometimes smushy ground such stories tread by keeping the animals very true to nature, the humour deadpan and the telling matter of fact.
I also like that, while Julian may adjust his viewpoint slightly, he remains happy in his own company – there’s no great turn around. He doesn’t suddenly ‘realise’ a life of quiet and solitude is not the way its done and become a more sociable mouse. Rather, he retains his personality but finds that a spot of company and friendship occasionally is a welcome change. I found this a refreshing and more inclusive take on friendship than is often the case – it was nice to see the quiet life validated.
Add to this an unexpected twist in the tale and it becomes a real winner, which fans of Barnett and Klassen especially are sure to appreciate.