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Review: Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf October 30, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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mouseWhat if the gods had started creating the world…and then got lazy? What if there were holes here and there? And what if a group of children starting creating new creatures and they got a little out of hand?

This is the premise of David Almond’s marvelous new picture book Mouse Bird Snake Wolf. I first encountered the book in Paris (thank you, Shakespeare & Co. bookstore!) and London, but it is available in the US as well. This is a wonderful title to read aloud, to use as part of a unit on myth or creation stories, or just to sit and ponder in your own mind.

Harry, Sue and Ben (known as Little Ben) are taking a walk through their world. The gods have made many wonderful creatures, both familiar (the whale) and unfamiliar (the zowet). But now they have grown lazy and are drinking tea, eating cake and taking naps. So the children wander and wonder about the many empty spaces in their world. It’s only to be expected that they try to fill these spaces, and soon there is a mouse, a bird and a snake where before there was nothing. But Harry and Sue are not satisfied. They decide to create a wolf…no matter the consequences.

Dave McKean’s illustrations are marvelous and occasionally creepy, depicting the gods in grey wisps of cloud, and the children in rich color. Sets of panels which occasionally go inside a character’s head give a close up view of thoughts and the process of creation. As Ben says at one point “Sometimes…when you look into an empty space, you can kind of see something in it.” That’s as good an explanation of the impulse to make art or tell a story as any I’ve ever heard.

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