Little Mouse – A Toon Book by Jeff Smith
by Jeff Smith
The Toon Books series has been extensively reviewed here on the FPI blog, simply because it’s so enjoyable to be able to actually celebrate smart, funny and entertaining graphic novels specifically written for younger children. Francoise Mouley’s initial idea for Toon Books was a very simple one:
“With the Toon Books we were building from (Little Lit’s all ages appeal) … and also narrowing it down to a very specific moment in childhood development where you enter into school, where you enter into literacy. What we set out to do was to share our love of books, of books in general, of the printed object” (Mouly interviewed in Teachers & Writers magazine, Summer 2008)
And so far the entire line has been successful in providing younger readers with some really lovely graphic novels. Perhaps the best so far has been the terrific romp of Luke On The Loose (review). But with Little Mouse Gets Ready, Toon Books have thrown a bit of a curveball, sure, they started the line with Art Spiegelman’s Jack And The Box (review) but they’ve not really tapped into the pool of big name talent comic talent since then. Although Jeff Smith’s Bone has subsequently turned into a children’s bestseller for Scholastic in the US it started deep in the independent comics scene, championed by people like me. So to have him appear at Toon Books was a little unexpected.
But the surprise is temporary and the result is, as we’ve come to expect with Toon Books, something very lovely and perfectly pitched to young readers. Jeff Smith’s artwork is, as you’d expect, quite delightful, with his simple lines filling the one or two big panels on each page with just the sort of warm friendly cartooning that appeals to the youngest readers that Little Mouse is aimed at. Similarly the story, with Little Mouse getting himself ready for a trip to the barn, is a simple yet perfectly formed thing:
(Practical lessons in dressing for youngsters from Jeff Smith’s Little Mouse.)
But it’s one thing to tell a simple story and quite another to make it really work. Telling a great children’s story is an art and Smith does it extremely well. The images of Little Mouse struggling valiantly with just the sort of things these young readers will be so familiar with from their own lives; on with the clothes, in just the right order, struggling with tail holes, arm holes, snap fasteners and fiddly buttons. Will he get ready in time? (Yes, of course he does – what do you expect?) There’s a great enthusiasm that will prove very infectious and an ending that will have the giggles flowing.
(A lovely final panel, just after the nice twist to the book. What a silly mouse indeed. And what a great graphic novel.)
Little Mouse Gets Ready is yet another perfect introduction to a lifetime of reading graphic novels from Toon Books. And you really can’t get a better recommendation than that. Buy it for your own children and if you haven’t got children the right age, find someone that has.