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Friday, July 30, 2010

Once Upon a Twice, written by Denise Doyen and illustrated by Barry Moser. Random House, 2009. $21.00 ages 4 and up

"Danger's lurking in the lettuce,
Tween the celery, stalkers get us!
Open moonlight is a menace.
Trust in shadows - disappear

The old mice have much to teach Jam, but he's not interested. They offer a warning to the young and fearless mouse about the dangers that might befall him while he seeks adventure on his own. He is undeterred!

As is true of life experience, the elders have a point; but Jam needs to make some discoveries for himself. And he is off. He has no fear of moonlight, or what the darkness disguises. In fact:

"Out in the open, in the clear,
Where any wisenmouse would fear,
Jam licks his paw, he grooms an ear,
And never hears approaching hissss."

To say he learns his lesson is moot, it is what he does with that lesson that will endear him to future generations.

Barry Moser's artwork is glorious. His use of dark shadows implies the fear that the elders share, while the moonlight focuses its boundless light on the tiny mouse and his horde. Predators find obscurity in the shadows and inspire a sense of foreboding for the young precocious mouse.

Taking a cue from Jabberwocky, Denise Doyen has created a delicious display of fun and nonsense, while also creating a story that is perfectly understood by her young readers. It is a tale that takes some practice to read since many of the words are unfamiliar; but the rhyme and rhythm of the language carries you along on a readaloud romp that will delight listeners and readers alike.

It is full of suspense, adventure and wonder. I'll be sharing it over and over again!

Once upon a twice,
In the middle of the nice,
The moon was on the rice -
Jam's mice-advice is: "Be forewarned!""

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