A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The message here may be a bit confusing to young readers. Is it that the world, especially at night, can be a dangerous and scary place? Is it that we should listen to, and heed, the warnings of our elders? Should we abandon adventure and a search for beauty in favor of security? Or, should we take our chances, follow our dreams, and pass on our wisdom, if we are lucky enough live through our brushes with danger?
Violence & Scariness
No graphic violence; however, the prey/predator kind of violence inherent in nature is implied. The owl hovers overhead, and the snake lurks in the pond waiting to devour the mouse. At one point, there is some question about whether or not he has succeeded.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that they should read this book through a couple of times before reading it aloud because the clever nonsense words can be stumbling blocks. Also, this may not be the story to read to sensitive kids who are already afraid of the night or upset about the notion of predators hunting prey. Kids who love wordplay, however, will love it.
Is It Any Good?
The tone is definitely spooky, the language playfully imaginative, and the illustrations rich, and beautifully magical. Quite a combination! With mice prowling through the rice field, predators lurking in the dark, and words of warning "whispercrooned," tension builds and is carried near to the end. Though this is not really a Halloween story, it definitely exudes that kind of scary suspense.
The joy of the story is in the wordplay. Rhyming lines are splattered with made-up words that are fun to say and, for the most part, clever in their meaning. The technique is slightly reminiscent of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll or The BFG by Roald Dahl, and almost as enjoyable. Set in stanzas against artwork that is amazing in its expressive, uncluttered sensitivity, the story seems like an ancient one, and one readers will want to read time and time again.
Deep midnight blues, dark grey-greens, blacks of the wooded landscape, flecks of luminous fireflies, and a bright off-white moon provide a rich tapestry for this story. Predators are painted as dark creatures, silhouetted against the moon or nearly hidden in the reeds along the riverbank while light brown mice show up very well, almost as if a spotlight were following them, and making the point that they definitely can be seen...not a good thing. And, except for Jam, the mice have eyes that express their timidity and caution; his shine with adventure.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.