A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
What's the story?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about nonsense words. What do you think "scoutaprowl" means? Or "inbetwiddle"? Or "goofiddles"? How do you know?
Why did the elder mice want Jam to stay with the group and not venture out into the night alone?
What is the "dangershine" of the moon, and why did it make the night even more dangerous to the mice?
What lesson did Jam learn in the end? Why is he called the "Keeper-of-the-song"?
Do you think his adventure was worth the risk?
For kids who love creepy stories
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