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Review of The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.    g
10/17    978-0-7636-7754-1    $17.99

The opening of this latest Barnett/Klassen collaboration (an original pourquoi tale) seems to presage dire events: “Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.” But once inside, the mouse meets a duck, who “lives well” in the wolf’s stomach, with all the storybook comforts of home: a red-checkered tablecloth, jam and toast for breakfast, homemade soup for lunch, a phonograph. The mouse asks permission to stay, and when the answer is an enthusiastic yes, the two celebrate by dancing up a storm. This gives the wolf an awful stomachache, and he howls, attracting the attention of a hunter (who looks like Santa Claus in the role of a Hollywood lumberjack); the hunter shoots, but the duck and mouse defend their “home” by leading a charge out of the wolf’s stomach and frightening the hunter away (“Oh woe! Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!”). The grateful wolf offers to grant his saviors any favor they wish, and…“Well, you can guess what they asked for.” Cue a double-page illustration of the friends partying it up, back home in the (once-again-painful) belly of the beast. And that, folks, is why wolves howl. This is a delightfully entertaining mash-up of familiar storytelling tropes combined in a wholly original way. Barnett’s language is both funny and rich (for those who remember the cartoon “Fractured Fairy Tales,” that tone exactly). Klassen’s mixed-media illustrations are concentrated down to their essences, with colors so subtle the art almost appears black-and-white at first glance; striking tableaux that seem to capture each moment at the very peak of the action propel the story forward.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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Comments

  1. I am reminded of the time Pinocchio and his band spent time inside the stomach of a whale. The ingenius Barnett and Klassen, one of the most accomplished and polished of all illustrators have another major winner on their hands with this gem. The classroom kids do love it, even with the sophisticated challenge it poses. Wonderful capsule review. I know the Calling Caldecott treatment is imminent too.

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