cover image THE FOREST


Claire A. Nivola, Author . FSG/Foster $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374

"I had always been afraid of the forest, that dark and unknown place at the farthest edge of my little world," begins Nivola's (Elisabeth) tale of a mouse who faces down his fear. The opening image, framed in a border of white, shows a charming town of red-tiled stucco houses in a valley under blue skies; a long, winding road connects the town to an expanse of trees at the top of the picture. The author underscores the seductive pull of the forest with emotionally sophisticated description: "At night I often dreamed of it and woke chilled with fear.... One night the fear pressed so heavily on me that I could bear it no longer." The next morning, the mouse takes a last look at his cozy abode—smooth-lined, awash in warm colors and safely nestled in the tidy village—before setting out. Horizontal framed images of the fellow moving farther from his home, the skies growing overcast, parallel the mouse's internal journey. Nivola's forest scenes are pointillistic, creating an overwhelming world of copious foliage. Dwarfed by the enormous trees and frightened by a moving shadow, the hero panics, trips and falls to the forest floor. But he opens his eyes to discover a soft bed of moss, a butterfly ("like a guardian angel") and sunlight "raining down through the leaves and warming my back." The mouse's bravery in tackling the unknown is heroic—and will likely inspire other small heroes to conquer forests of their own. Ages 3-6. (May)