Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

You’ve undoubtedly heard this story, or at the very least heard of it, probably under some variation of “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse,” or the reverse. It’s a well-loved children’s story that has received innumerable treatments throughout the years. Author/illustrator Helen Ward has brought us the latest version.

The story is simple: the Country Mouse is living an idyllic life, with plenty of good food, and a warm place to sleep, even in the winter (although the food supply can be a bit touch and go). Then one day his cousin arrives from the city for a visit. He tells his country cousin of all the wonders of the city — the bright lights, the rich food, the sumptuous quarters, and all the rest. Suddenly, the Country Mouse is no longer so contented as he was, and decides to visit his cousin in the city. It’s all just as his cousin described it, but it’s a bit much — too bright, too noisy, and dangerous. (Yes, there are dangers in the country, but Country Mouse knew what those were.) The Country Mouse, having had enough, returns home to his peaceful life in the fields and forests.

There is not much more to the story as Ward tells it. I have to assume that this book is oriented to very young children, of an age where it probably has to be read to them — there are no specifics in the text, no naming of names or relation of discrete events, and the vocabulary is simple.

The illustrations, on the other hand, are quite sophisticated, lushly rendered watercolors, beautifully drawn and often quite detailed. (And I can readily see, with some spreads, playing a game of “Find the mouse.”) They’re very appealing, and the accuracy of the renderings of the various animals — foxes, rabbits, even a pug dog — are remarkable.

I suspect that the drawings are more likely to hold a toddler’s interest than the text, but that would only serve to make a session with this book and nicely interactive adventure.

(Templar Books [Candlewick Press], 2012)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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