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Sunday, October 20, 2019

King Mouse, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"They argued about how to amuse the mouse. A fox stopped to listen.

"Why not put on a play?" said the fox.

The others agreed it was a splendid idea. They rehearsed over and over. Then they performed the play for the mouse."

Wearing a crown he has just discovered in the nearby grassy meadow, a hungry mouse is confronted by a bear who asks if he is a king. The mouse pauses and ponders the question before admitting that he is. The bear is suitably impressed with the  mouse's status, bowing down to acknowledge it..

Before long a crow arrives, meets the new king, and concerns itself with finding food for the ravenous monarch. The quest leads to a tortoise who also helps in the search for sustenance. The mouse, now sated and quite taken by his newly-acquired position, demands amusement. A passing fox suggests a play. The performance is very much appreciated by the royal.

Not far away, a snake also finds a crown and dons it. The animals are impressed and happy to welcome the newest royal - a queen! A lot to be thankful for, they admit. It doesn't take long before other crowns are discovered. Declaring themselves royalty and feeling quite haughty, they barely notice as the crownless bear trudges away in despair.

"The bear walked until he came to a
tree stump. He sat down. He could still
faintly hear the others.

"I never have any luck," he said."

The mouse notices. Removing his crown, he does what he can to offer kindness and friendship. It is delightfully reciprocated.

Readers get an early glimpse of the action that results in the discovery of the crowns on a wordless opening spread. The warmth and quiet tone of the graphite illustrations carry readers through this timely tale of status, and the need for kindness. At once humorous and endearing, it is a book that promotes quiet empathy, too often missing in today's world. A final wordless spread follows the book's text, and is telling and lovely.

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Awards in the Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books category, this is a wonderful addition to any library or child's book shelf.

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