This book (ages 4-7) could be billed as the Sorcerer's Apprentice meets Pandora's Box, but much more fun. Populated by a bevy of delightful characters, the story revels in the glory of a rich imagination, an inventive protagonist, and a satisfying ending. It lends itself to a family read-aloud session at bedtime or anytime.
When Henry borrows his sister's colored pencils, he has no idea just how much trouble mice can make. Innocently, he begins to draw, starting with a toy car. The car suddenly pops off the wall and zooms across the room. Who would fit in such a small car? Mice, of course! Henry proceeds to create a motley collection of mice characters which, in one way or another, don't satisfy him. Before he knows it, all his drawings come to life and take over his room. Such chaos! Inappropriate toys, foods, earthworms, butterflies, feathers Henry is at wit's end when he calls upon an unexpected and unlikely hero who restores order in a kind and understanding way.
The ending will be appreciated by anyone who has ever had an imaginary playmate. In the final picture, Henry is lying on his bed, listening comfortably (and maybe wistfully) to the faraway chuckling and giggling of his gaggle of characters, now hidden behind the wall. A golden yellow light streams from the tiny mousehole no one remembered to wipe away.
The warm, lively watercolor illustrations almost leap off the page, especially during the turbulent double-page spreads when Henry is overwhelmed. Henry is an appealing, button-nosed boy and his rather peculiar mouse characters are both mischievous and endearing.
It is intriguing that the part of Henry's life springing from his imagination is rendered in expressive full color, but the tidbits of Henry's real life are vignettes of pencil and texture on rough paper. The contrast between the two emphasizes how rich the imagination of a child can be.
This book was published originally in Great Britain and both the author and illustrator live in France.
Margo Lemieux is a children's book author, illustrator, and teacher who lives in Massachusetts.