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Picture Book Review – Brave as a Mouse

BRAVE AS A MOUSE

Written and Illustrated by Nicolò Carozzi 

(Random House Studio; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

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Starred Review – Booklist

 

A brave hero doesn’t always mean a big hero in Nicolò Carozzi’s beautifully worded and illustrated picture book Brave as a Mouse, his debut picture book in the US. 

Through simple text and stunning art, Carozzi draws our attention to Mouse’s new friendship with the homeowner’s fish. Mouse asks the fish, “Would you like to play?” and with a simple “YES!” both creatures enjoy each other’s company, swimming together. Mouse blows through a straw, and the fish enjoys jacuzzi-style bubbles. 

 

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Interior spread from Brave as a Mouse written and illustrated by Nicolò Carozzi, Random House Studio ©2021.

 

However, the fun stops when other housepets want to “play.” Three ominous shadows cast on the wall next to the fish’s bowl are plain but powerful images foretelling of the dangers ahead. 

As the homeowner’s beloved fat cats encircle the fishbowl, Mouse has a “wild … bold … [and] brave idea” to entice the three to follow him, all the way to the pantry where they gorge themselves on cat food.

 

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Interior art from Brave as a Mouse written and illustrated by Nicolò Carozzi, Random House Studio ©2021.

 

While the felines sleep off their big meal, Mouse uses the time to fulfill an even wilder, bolder, and braver idea that includes the help of other mice living in the house. Straight lines, calm, muted colors, and minimalist illustrations keep us focused on the rescue plan. Children and adult readers will enjoy the action-packed adventure as Mouse risks his own safety to protect his new friend. A more subtle, though important theme is the infectious nature of Mouse’s bravery and kindness.

 

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Interior art from Brave as a Mouse written and illustrated by Nicolò Carozzi, Random House Studio ©2021.

 

For those interested in quieter books on themes of friendship and compassion as well as those who like a good old fashion story when the good guys win, this picture book will delight again and again. 

 

  •  Reviewed by Armineh Manookian 
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Kids Picture Book Review – Norman: One Amazing Goldfish!

NORMAN: ONE AMAZING GOLDFISH!

Written by Kelly Bennett

Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

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Kelly Bennett and Noah Z. Jones, author and illustrator of Not Norman, have teamed up again for its sequel called Norman: One Amazing Goldfish! But you don’t need to have read the first book to know immediately that Norman is something special. 

Norman’s owner, the story’s narrator, is proud of his talented fish and wants “everyone to know it,” so it’s no surprise that he enters the upcoming Pet-O-Rama where he can demonstrate how truly awesome Norman is.

 

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NORMAN: ONE AMAZING GOLDFISH!. Text copyright © 2020 by Kelly Bennett. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Noah Z. Jones. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 

Kids will love all the cool tricks that Norman can perform on command including swimming in circles, blowing bubbles and a flip through a hoop that’s pretty impressive. But the pièce de résistance is how, when Norman’s owner plays a particular song on the tuba, Norman can sing and dance to it. This goldfish has got the moves and the Pet-O-Rama participants and attendees will be blown away by him. But the competition is fierce with bunnies, dogs, snakes, and lizards all going for glory.

 

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NORMAN: ONE AMAZING GOLDFISH!. Text copyright © 2020 by Kelly Bennett. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Noah Z. Jones. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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When it’s finally Norman and his owner’s turn in the spotlight, the goldfish appears to freeze up, hide and not respond to his cues. Remembering his nervous feelings from that very morning, Norman’s owner realizes that the goldfish is experiencing stage fright. With a welcome whisper of encouragement and a performance tip to turn the tide from his human friend, Norman not only completes the practiced routine, he wows the crowd and judges to capture the prize.

Bennett’s story about helping a friend in a time of need and lifting their spirits offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to discuss what a friendship encompasses. It’s also a gentle exposure to stage fright or speaking in front of a class—fears many young children might have—and how a compassionate friend can make all the difference in conquering that fear. Coupled with Jones’s vibrant, deeply saturated cartoon-like art, Bennett’s funny and sweet look at friendship through the eyes of a child and his pet goldfish, is a definite winner.

 

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Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

“Ignorance equals bliss in this amusing, cleverly executed tale.” – Kirkus Starred Review

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Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

Anyone who has ever gone fishing or known someone who has, has told, or been told, a fishing tale. An eight inch long fish becomes two feet long, and we’ve all heard of the big fish that got away. In Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, (Schwartz & Wade Books 2014, $17.99, Ages 4-8), Mrs. Doreen Randolph-Potts has a fish tale to tell of her own, only hers is true!

Boiger uses watercolor, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil on unbleached Fabriano watercolor paper to achieve the vibrant watery world Doreen travels through, happily ignorant of the perils lurking around her. Doreen is swimming upstream to visit her second cousin twice removed, who’s just had 157 babies, when she sees a delicious dragonfly which is, unbeknownst to our heroine, a fisherman’s lure. “GOODY!” Doreen cries. “How lucky for me! A lovely snack for my journey!”

A myriad of fish look on sympathetically, as the narrator bemoans Doreen’s bad luck.

It’s not a dragonfly.
Oh, poor Doreen. No.
It’s a HOOK.
And it’s not a treat.
It’s a TRAP.
And the one thing you’re not is lucky.

I adore how ​Lloyd-Jones has written Doreen’s story from the perspective of a child who has never had their innocence taken away by having had a bad experience. Always positive, Doreen exclaims, “BRAVO!” and thanks the Great Blue Heron, who swoops in and takes her from the fisherman, for helping her on her journey upstream. (Of course, he intends to eat her!)

Parents, and fish afficianados, don’t fret. By hook or by crook, Doreen makes her way to her reunion with her second cousin twice removed, and her 157 babies, unharmed. This is a perfect cautionary story. It allows the reader to see the dangers Doreen faces for themselves, but with a sense of lightheartedness that opens the door to deeper conversation.

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