Loretta Krupinski. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47579-8
Weather-related proverbs weave through this tale of two mouse pirates, Captain Oliver and mate Rosie. Blown ashore in a storm, the duo decides to try farming while repairing their ship. Each page offers another opportunity for adages, some familiar (""Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning""), others less so (""No weather is ill if the wind be still""). At times, the narrative droops under the burden of so much salty wisdom. But the artwork may well attract youngsters. Borders of golden rope, at times elaborately knotted, frame detailed gouache illustrations teeming with finely wrought botanical observations: mushrooms, insects, wheat stalks, and more. The artwork exudes a cozy aura: in the ship's berth, for instance, Rosie wears a flannel nightdress and pours tea from a flowery ceramic pot; a treasure chest rests on the counter beside a seashell collection. Likewise, the village store contains baskets, housewares and a barrel of acorns. The residents of Mousam Village, dressed in 19th-century garb (with holes in the pants for their tails), laugh at Oliver's pirate outfit and sailor-speak. A new storm brings a crisis to the island, and an opportunity for the pirates to reexamine their priorities (""The real treasure in life is not found in gold or grain, but in our friends,"" he concludes). Ages 4-up.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006