Mousequerade Ball: A Counting Tale: A Picture Book Review

Mousequerade Ball by Lori Mortensen and Betsy LewinIn a castle on a hill, in a great big hall, mice are getting ready for the Mousequerade Ball. They dress in their finest, they light up the hall. The mice come to feast and to dance and to have a grand time.

When an unexpected guest–a cat no less!–arrives at the hall, most of the mice are thrown into a frenzy. Just when the ball seems ruined, one brave mouse steps forward and sets the party back on course in Mousequerade Ball: A Counting Tale by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Betsy Lewin.

Rhyming text lends a nice rhythm to this counting tell that starts with one great hall and builds as preparations are made and guests arrive for the Mousequerade Ball. When a cat comes to the party, the story begins counting down as the guests panic and consider running away. That is, at least, until one lone mouse declares that she has invited the cat to the ball to come and dance (which he does!).

This is a whimsical story that will charm readers of all ages. The counting text and rhymes make it appealing to even the youngest readers. Lewin’s illustrations add a nice dimension to the story with additional details and a touch of whimsy depicting the mice in their finery and frippery.

Mousequerade Ball: A Counting Tale is a great choice for storytime or one-on-one reading. The counting elements, rhymed text, and detailed illustrations guarantee it will stand up well to multiple readings.

Hush, Little Dragon: A Picture Book Review

Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kelly MurphyMy first thought upon seeing Hush, Little Dragon (2008) by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, my first thought was, “Those are some cute dragons on that cover. I must read this book.” The book is illustrated by Kelly Murphy and written by one Boni Ashburn. I will be the first to admit the immaturity of my observation, but my initial reading of her name was “Boney Ash Burn” and I actually thought she might be using a pen name (I don’t think that is the case anymore).

Anyway, Hush, Little Dragon is based on an English lullaby called “Hush, Little Baby” which some readers might know. It begins with the the lyrics

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”

though I have heard it sung more often with references to Mama. (Wikipedia has an entry for the song including full lyrics.)

As far as lullabies go, “Hush, Little Baby” is pretty tame (what with the lack of babies in tree tops or what not). It’s also one of my favorites. That is, perhaps, why I was ill prepared to fully enjoy this parody of that song.

The book starts:

“Hush, little dragon, don’t make a sound. Mama’s gonna bring you a princess she found. If that princess runs from you, Mama’s gonna bring you a knight or two.”

The story goes on in that vein, with the mother bring her baby dragon various townspeople to eat, until the big finish when she decides they might have overstayed their welcome.

I love the illustrations, and I loved the idea. But I couldn’t quite love Hush, Little Dragon as a whole, perhaps because there was something so incongruous about reading a book about eating people (albeit by dragons, which is what they naturally do) to the tune of a lullaby. I suspect that children who like dragons will not have my problem and will flat out adore this book much in the same way I was able to adore The Nightmare Before Christmas in my youth only to find it unbelievably creepy (though still sort of neat) at the age of twenty-three.