22 November 2015
Shortly after I reviewed Philip Roy’s excellent Eco Warrior, a book arrived in the post from the publisher, reminding me of Mr. Roy’s diversity of talent. Mouse Pet is the third in a series of picture books published by Ronsdale Press here in Vancouver; I wonder if the others are as delightful as this one…
The first sign that Mouse Pet is going to be different is that it opens with the protagonist’s voice, not a narrator telling us, well, anything.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“You know what I’ve been thinking, John?”
“We should get a pet.”
We follow this conversation between the initially distracted adult John and his mouse child/friend Happy, giggling as we go. Roy has nailed the child voice. Happy is inquisitive, thoughtful, and logical in an absurdly childish way. For every brilliant idea that Happy comes up with, John has a legitimate adult rebuttal. It is not tenable, says the frustratingly realistic John, to have a goat in the city. Lola the stuffed goat, now, that might work. Until Lola wants a pet of her own…
Couple Roy’s cheeky story with Andrea Torrey Balsara’s bright, expressive illustration style, and you have a recipe for success. The illustrations, even more than the text, offer humour and a scope for learning. When Happy suggests they could move to a farm (for their hypothetical goat), for example, the illustration shows John and Happy in “American Gothic” cosplay.
Happy’s expression throughout is one of childish joy, or wonder, or puzzlement. Balsara’s drawings bring a liveliness to the already cheerful voices of John and Happy as they sort through the logistics of pet ownership. Happy’s innocent joy is contagious; this one will not get old.