cover image Mouse Practice

Mouse Practice

Emily Arnold McCully. Arthur A. Levine Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-68220-6

Practice makes perfect pitch--in more ways than one--in this clever picture book about giving one's all to a favorite pursuit. With a minimum of words and a confident reliance on her jaunty illustrations, McCully focuses on a mouse family (closely related to the mice in the wordless Picnic). Young Monk the mouse loves to watch all the bigger kids play baseball in the park, and one day he's asked to fill in for an injured player. Alas, Monk strikes out all the way around: ""They weren't angry. It was worse than that. They felt sorry for him."" Determined to hone his baseball skills, Monk begins a rigorous practice routine with the support of his parents. Unfortunately, Dad and Mom are musicians and ""not what you'd call... natural athletes."" But music and baseball dovetail when Monk finds himself pitching the ball in time to Dad and Mom's tune. Before long, Monk is the new ace pitcher on the big kids' team--and Dad and Mom's band performs at every game. McCully is at the top of her game in this cheery outing. The well-crafted story expresses important ideas and delicately balances humor with a bounty of universal, realistic situations young readers will recognize. The mouse dialogue, which appears as handwritten asides within the artwork, gives the furry characters heart and depth. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)