CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 15 . . . . March 31, 2006
Originally published as a picture book in 1995, One Gray Mouse has been reissued in board book format. At first glance, One Gray Mouse just appears to be a simple counting book, one which introduces the numbers from 1 to 10, but a closer examination of the brief, almost musical text indicates that each rhyming couplet also introduces a new colour while reinforcing the one previously introduced.
Fernandes's detailed and colourful three-dimensional illustrations of anthropomorphized birds, animals and insects provide the things which are to be counted. From occupying just one of a pair of facing pages, the action-filled illustrations begin to spill over to both pages, sometimes becoming double page spreads. In their first pass at the book, youngsters will undoubtedly count just those things obviously identified by the text, such as the six yellow bees, but, via return visits to the book, they may come to realize (perhaps with some adult prompting) that every illustration also contains a secondary object in quantities equal to the page's target number. For example, the tree inhabited by the six bees also has six flowers, and six separate leaves can also be discerned. The “hint” about what else should be counted comes in the book's closing illustration which reveals the one gray mouse sitting in a chair in his house, surrounded by one object taken from each of the previous number pages. Fernandes also adds to the book's subtle complexity by including in each illustration something of the colour which will be formally introduced in the next pair of facing pages. Consequently, one of the eight brown bears is holding a red toy car while the nine white ducks are riding in a red fire truck, some of them seated on the truck's gray seat which foreshadows the ten red snails in a gray snail pail. Of course, the gray pail completes the colour circle begun by the gray mouse. An extra bit of fun for the book's young listeners/viewers is spotting the gray mouse who appears somewhere in all of the illustrations. One slight quibble - the five pink pigs appear to be more flesh coloured than pink, especially when their skin tones are contrasted with the pink ribbons found in their yellow pig wigs.
As a concept book for a very young audience, One Gray Mouse perhaps works better in the new board book form because the sturdy structure will more readily withstand the abuse of fingers just learning to turn pages.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.