Review: MOUSE WAS MAD
I really didn't expect to win. I mean, the luck had to break sometime, right? I just couldn't resist. Cynthia wanted us to comment with our favorite tantrum from kids' lit, and I don't pass up any chance to remind people about Mary out-screaming Colin in The Secret Garden.
And I won. :)
I really love this book.
Too often when I read very young picture books, ones with "simple" storylines and just a few sentences on a page, I find myself relying on the art to really show me the personality and conflicts of the animals. Henry Cole's illustrations are perfect, and they certainly add wonderful layers to Linda's story. But the story itself, the words in Mouse was Mad caught me, all by themselves.
Just a short excerpt, from when Mouse gets "standing-still mad."
"Impressive," said Hare.
"What control," said Bear.
"Are you breathing?" asked Hedgehog.
Even if we didn't have the picture of Mouse, frozen in place, this dialog would tell us how dramatic his anger is, the power he has achieved in not moving. And what parent doesn't remember that feeling, that Urban gets in so beautifully, of watching their child in full-anger mode and wondering if their face isn't turning just a little too red, if they can possibly be getting enough oxygen?
Each of the other characters has their own distinct personality. My 13-year-old son picked up the book shortly after I read it. He said that Bear clearly has a bit of a "superiority complex," and I think he's right. Hedgehog reminds me of people I know, well-meaning, but a bit pedantic. He's got one of my favorite lines in the book--"The best rolling is achieved when the body is a perfect sphere."
By the end of the book, I was not just smiling, but I was laughing out loud. And knowing that this is a book that will not just entertain, but help. Probably one of the reasons I've always loved Mary's tantrum in The Secret Garden is that I had my own share of anger fits when I was young. Okay, and when I was (am) not so young. My son knows that feeling of being so filled-to-the-brim with frustration that you have to hop, or stomp, or scream, or roll. He's learned much earlier than I did that the best thing to do with this feeling is be still, and he knows that a book is often the best place to find that stillness.
Mouse was Mad is, I think, a book that young children will carry with them, to read and reread, and to remind them that they, too, can find ease within themselves.