Tuesday, September 4, 2018

September's Book of the Month--The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse

September’s Book of the Month is another successful collaboration from that prolific picture book dynamic duo, Mac Barnett and Jon Klaassen. In THE WOLF, THE DUCK & THE MOUSE, when a mouse encounters a wolf, he’s “quickly gobbled up.” But imagine the mouse's surprise when, instead of meeting his end, he meets a duck who invites him to sit down to a delicious breakfast. Bread and jam, to be exact, and served on a tablecloth. As the duck explains, “I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.” The mouse decides to stay with the duck in the wolf’s belly. Life is good until too much dancing in there causes the wolf's stomach to ache, and his loud moaning attracts the attention of a hunter. So the duck and the mouse ride out to defend their home...

Klassen’s shrewd, collage-like illustrations perfectly match the droll text. For the “interior” scenes, he uses the dark browns and black of the wolf’s belly to cast a spotlight on the absurd antics in the foreground. When the action moves outdoors, he plays with light and dark there, as well. Like a previous Barnett/Klassen collaboration, EXTRA YARN, the story of THE WOLF, THE DUCK & THE MOUSE feels old fashioned, but with a modern, smart-alecky twist. Like a sardonic relative of an old pourquoi story or fairy tale, with hints of Peter and the Wolf. The subtitle of this witty E. B. White Award-winner could easily have been “Why the Wolf Howls at the Moon.”


PS—it’s really interesting to me how the emotion is conveyed in this book—the eyes are so expressive, these characters don't even have mouths most of the time! If you want to study how to infuse gobs of feeling into your characters, check out the rest of Klassen’s work and also the other master of this, Mo Willems.

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