Toe Shoe Mouse by Jan Carr

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See how one tiny mouse’s life changes from cats, claws, and sewers, to ribbons, sequins, and roses in this beautifully written and illustrated picture book, Toe Shoe Mouse (Holiday House, $16.95, Ages 4-8) written by Jan Carr, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell, and reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

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Toe Shoe Mouse by Jan Carr with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, Holiday House, 2014.

After being chased through the sewers of the city, a mouse finds himself at the ballet on a comfy velvety cushion. He enjoys the music and dance so much, that he decides to stay…until a patron claims his seat, and a chase for the little mouse ensues. Luckily, for our adorable rodent friend, he can squeeze into places no human can, and is able to narrowly escape sword-wielding soldiers by squeezing through a small space and into a room. Tuckered out from his recent close calls, he snuggles down into a “… small, satin crevice. It was just the right size for hiding and was padded with a soft bed of lamb’s wool,” and falls asleep.

When he wakes up, little Toe Shoe Mouse discovers he’s in the dressing room of a graceful ballerina, Celeste, who he immediately begins to secretly court for her friendship. But, our narrator is a timid fellow, and flees when he comes nose to nose with his flexible object of his infatuation. A run-in with a broom-batting custodian and then a pack of rats, has the mouse running back to the safety of his pink satin bed. The bed (a toe shoe) is missing. Instead he finds a sweet treat and an enduring, albeit unlikely, friendship with someone who shares his love of music and dance.

Toe Shoe Mouse is right on pointe with artwork by Jennifer A. Bell, rendered in pencil then colored digitally in a soft romantic palette, sure to please ballerinas of all ages. The writing is as exquisite a composition as befits a ballet. The dance of friendship … timeless. It should be noted that Toe Shoe Mouse is wordier than many current picture books, but in a good way. Jan Carr’s writing is reminiscent of the late great Beatrix Potter. Bravo!

Take a peek at some pictures here.


My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton

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My Pen Pal, Santa, by Melissa Stanton with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell (Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, Ages3-7), is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

My Pen Pal, Santa cover art by Jennifer A. Bell

My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013.

There are few things in this world that make me happier than Christmas. I don’t get aggravated by retailers who advertise earlier every year. Nor do I get annoyed by the local radio station that plays Christmas music beginning mid-November. I love the traditions of the holiday, both religious and commercial. I also love the food, festivities, and of course, Santa Claus. So, when I came across My Pen Pal, Santa  written by Melissa Stanton and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell, I knew this was a book I was meant to review. After all, how many of you can say the only songs you have ever downloaded from iTunes are of the Christmas variety?

Six year old Ava writes a thank you note to Santa Claus after Christmas. In it she asks him a couple of important questions, such as, “Why didn’t you eat the cookies I left you?” While Santa is certainly surprised to get a letter after Christmas, he nonetheless sends off a response answering Ava’s questions. He even signs his letter Merry Christmas! So begins a monthly correspondence between jolly old St. Nick and the little girl.

I enjoyed how many of my (I mean children’s) concerns were answered throughout this charmingly illustrated book. Does Santa know the tooth fairy? What about the Easter Bunny? What do he and Mrs. Claus do during the off season? Most importantly, for those of us without fireplaces, how does Santa deliver presents to children without chimneys? We (I mean kids) need to know this stuff, right?  My Pen Pal, Santa even addresses believers and non-believers in an open and loving way.

Parents, see what magic happens when you read this book with your child. It’s just perfect for a 3-7 year old who might already be questioning Santa’s existence, but still wants to believe. And who doesn’t?

Click here for Santa Stationery created by Jennifer A. Bell.