cover image Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary

Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary

Beverly Donofrio, , illus. by Barbara McClintock. . Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83609-1

Admirers of The Borrowers and The Tale of Two Bad Mice will smile at this beguiling comparison of human- and mouse-scale worlds, Donofrio’s (Riding in Cars with Boys ) children’s debut. Mary, a midcentury child who favors flouncy skirts, lives with parents and siblings. In the same house, behind a wall, lives a mouse who “had a mother and a father and a sister and a brother, too.” Mary learns to beware of mice; the mouse, of people. “So Mary didn’t tell her family about the mouse. And the mouse didn’t tell about Mary.” Nonetheless, Mary often steals a glimpse inside the mousehole to exchange a wave with her friend. With an antique palette and an engraver’s fluid line, McClintock (Adèle & Simon ) designs ingenious accessories for the anthropomorphic mice. When a newly hippie-ish Mary leaves for college in a VW Beetle, the mouse packs her things in a walnut shell. Mary’s dorm room matches the mouse’s underground home, down to the green bedspread, yellow sheets and overflowing hamper; Mary’s striped pink rug looks just like the pink sock by the mouse’s bed. Eventually Mary raises her own children in a modern, glass-walled house, and her daughter, Maria, meets the mouse’s child. True, Donofrio and McClintock indulge in nostalgia and pay no heed to rodents’ life expectancy. Yet only a jaded reader could fail to be bewitched by McClintock’s meticulous panels or her piquant cover art, with its swingy hand-lettering and swaying heroines. Donofrio and McClintock give exquisite attention to the girl’s and mouse’s parallel lives, emphasizing cross-generational connections and shared secrets. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)