Monday, September 16, 2013

Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf, by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean

I'm going to count this book as middle-grade, because it's not really for younger readers. Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf is halfway between a picture book and a graphic novel. You could read it to a child (not a very young one: there's a pretty scary bit); you could also study it in a literature class. It's part parable, part satire, part folk tale, and it's quite beautiful. Dave McKean's illustrations are perfect. I got it from the library, but I want to own it. Isn't it a gorgeous cover?

What if the world wasn't quite finished? What if three kids notice that some things seem to be missing: what would they decide to create? 

David Almond is an interesting and disquieting children's author. I don't always like his books; I'm not sure I like to see the side of human nature he sees. But this book veers more toward the sweet of bittersweet:  still edgy but maybe a bit more hopeful. (Or maybe that's just me.) 

I have no idea how to sum it up: a funny cautionary tale about the power of creation; a sweet meditation on the importance of imagination; a scary adventure into the psyche of children. If you liked Gaiman/McKean's The Wolves in the Walls, if you like Shaun Tan, you will very much enjoy this. And middle-grade readers I think will simply enjoy the story of three kids and what they create and what happens next.

This is just like the Honey Ginger Plum scones I just invented: familiar, yet original, sweet, but with a bite.

For this week's round up of great Middle-Grade reads, go no further than Shannon Messenger's excellent blog.


  1. This sounds really interesting! Going to look for it.

  2. I did a review of this for and had a heck of a time deciding what level to place it. I could actually see this being used in a high school class in study of myths, parables, fables, etc. I like the book as well, but it's an odd one.

    1. Yes, I'm curious to know what librarians do with it, and who ends up checking it out. It would be awesome used in a class to teach about myth etc.