cover image Once Upon a Twice

Once Upon a Twice

Denise Doyen, , illus. by Barry Moser. . Random, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-375-85612-9

In this cautionary tale about a mouse named Jam Boy who learns to follow the rules, Moser’s dark illustrations set a menacing tone while Doyen’s verse will be a challenge for the book’s target audience. Newcomer Doyen’s puns and invented words are sometimes clever, as when the mice are out at night “scoutaprowl” and Jam Boy escapes from a snake by quickly “scritchscrambl[ing] in a log!” However, the complex text often sounds as if the imaginary words were conceived to rhyme rather than to make a Jabberwocky-like, off-kilter kind of sense (“They runtunnel through the riddle—/ Secret ruts hid inbetwiddle—/ But one mousling jams the middle!/ Whilst he goofiddles, others howl”). After Jam Boy’s escape, the text awkwardly announces, “Mouse years go by...” and the reader next sees Jam Boy as a bearded “eldermouse” warning that “The world afield is dangerouse.... Be Forewarned!” Moser’s (Hogwood Steps Out ) paintings, on the other hand, are a marvel of nighttime beauty, the rice paddies lit by a yellow moon and filled with expressive mice and animals who witness the story’s events. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)