March 15, 2014

Mouse Tales

by Philip Roy
Art by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
February, 2014

Happy the Pocket Mouse, the star of Philip Roy's new picture book series from Ronsdale Press, doesn't seem very happy when he can't sleep and insists that he would fall asleep very quickly if John, his human friend, would just tell him a bedtime story.  With the love of a parent or caregiver, John awakens (okay, Happy does have to open his eyelid) and considers the best story to tell, without frightening Happy.  He starts with the story of Hansel and Gretel, providing answers to Happy's multitude of questions and comments e.g., "How poor were they?" "That's not scary." "She made her house out of GINGERBREAD and CANDY?" Although he's being very brave and inquisitive, Happy is shocked to learn that witches keep spooky things like mouse tails in little jars. Well, Happy's very ready to go to sleep then (or at least end that story) but he has more questions, to which the answers are even more unsettling.  So our adorable little rodent, with the incessant questions, clever ideas and passive determination (really!), finds the means to sleep, albeit with a few detours.

Happy and John take me back to the days of Topo Gigio snuggling up to "Eddie" on The Ed Sullivan Show*, though I see a compassionate John Lennon in Mouse Tales' John. (Is the same name just a coincidence?)  The repartee Philip Roy has penned between the two is brisk, endearing and expressive, and never will the reader believe there is anything but love between these two individuals. And Andrea Torrey Balsara, a new illustrator definitely to watch in youngCanLit, gets the right mix of sweetness and reality, never going saccharine on the characters or the setting.

I love Mouse Tales and look forward to reading it to my kindergarten students, luckily never close enough to bedtime for them to adopt Happy's concerns.  But I especially look forward to more adventures in the Happy the Pocket Mouse series, knowing that the collaboration between Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara is marked for great youngCanLit success.

* If you're too young to remember Topo Gigio, check out the first 30 seconds of the YouTube video at

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