- Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond
In this graphic fable, author Almond and illustrator McKean imagine a world much like our own, but with curious gaps and empty spaces left when its creators decided to take a rest. Harry, Sue, and Little Ben enjoy the wonders of this world, but they are intrigued—half scared, half curious—by its empty places as well. While the self-satisfied gods sit around congratulating each other on their many accomplishments and eventually fall asleep, the children imagine how to supply what they think is lacking. Ben conceives of a mouse, Susan a bird, and Harry a snake, crafting them out of found materials and then willing them to life. When Susan and Harry create a wolf, which immediately devours them, Ben frantically unmakes the animal and rescues them, but the wolf that they were once inside of now lives inside Susan and Harry. The gods then awaken, full of dreams and plans inspired by the children’s creations, both benign and terrible. Like all good fables, this one has multiple interpretive possibilities and moral resonances, in addition to being a compelling story in its own right. McKean’s illustrations effectively complement Almond’s textual world-making, employing a taupey monochromatism for the gods and a color palette that relies on troubled olive and piercing chartreuse for the children. He creates labile faces and body parts through lines that seem to writhe and move on the page, conveying the children’s shifting emotions during their creative processes from puzzlement to imaginative spark, from wonder and delight to apprehension and horror; each of the heavy-lidded gods has a distinct personality effected through body shape and expression. There are various ways of looking at the relationship between creator and creation as both children and gods consider the wisdom and consequences of the things they have made. Much rich fodder for the discussion of big ideas as well as storytelling form will be found here.