Review of Orris and Timble: The Beginning

Orris and Timble: The BeginningOrris and Timble: The Beginning
by Kate DiCamillo; illus. by Carmen Mok
Primary    Candlewick    80 pp.
4/24    9781536222791    $16.99
e-book ed.  9781536237191    $16.99

Orris the rat lives a quiet, reclusive life nestled in the wall of an abandoned barn. He papers his hideaway with stories from discarded books, tends to his treasures (a slipper, a marble, a sardine can emblazoned with a jaunty, crown-wearing fish), and carefully avoids danger. When a young owl finds himself snagged in a mousetrap outside of Orris’s door, the rat is faced with a moral dilemma: help the predator, risking that his favor may be repaid with violence, or ignore the owl’s clear suffering from the safety of his own nest. This test of character sits at the center of an intimate, fully illustrated early chapter book. As the story is a clear variation on Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse,” the moral option may seem obvious, but DiCamillo’s artful use of spare and telling detail along with Mok’s attention to visual perspective in her atmospheric art give weight to the rat’s decision. Orris’s face-off with his admired sardine can’s offbeat branding insisting that consumers “make the good and noble choice!!” adds levity. While Orris works to release the trap, a nimbly narrated conversation sets a tentative friendship in motion between Timble, an awkward, good-intentioned lover of stories, and Orris, a grumpy, lonely collector of tales. This is a tender, carefully drawn opening to a promising character-driven series.

From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jessica Tackett MacDonald

Jessica Tackett MacDonald is a collection development librarian at the Boston Public Library, specializing in youth and teen collections. She holds masters degrees in library science and children’s literature from Simmons University.

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