Review of The Real Story

The Real Story The Real Story
by Sergio Ruzzier; illus. by the author
Primary    Abrams Appleseed    32 pp.
10/23    9781419755262    $16.99
e-book ed.  9781647003463    $15.29

Cat finds an empty cookie jar smashed on the floor and demands an explanation from Mouse, who just happens to be reading a book next to a plate with a sprinkling of suspicious crumbs. “The cookies were tired of being closed inside,” Mouse explains, so the cookies broke the jar and ran away. “Finally free, they are now running around the countryside having a good time.” When Cat insists on the real story, Mouse blames a slimy monster. Then an alien who needed cookies for her cookie-fueled spaceship. Then dozens of hungry bugs. The illustrations move between the grim reality of the cookieless present and Mouse’s inventions. The loose lines and fluid pastel watercolors feel lived in, but they also have a dreamy quality that suits Mouse’s storytelling. Cat’s expressions are hilarious throughout an emotional journey from agitation to exasperation, and one can’t help thinking that Cat and Mouse have had many conversations like this over the years. When Cat finally gets the real story, it’s a letdown, so: “Can you tell me another cookie story?” This will be an enjoyable read-aloud for lap-sits and storytimes, and it would be an ideal springboard to encourage children to write and illustrate their own tall tales.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Adrienne L. Pettinelli

Adrienne L. Pettinelli is the director of the Henrietta (NY) Public Library. She has served on several book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott Committee, and is the author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008).

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