cover image Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores

Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores

James Howe, Lou Fancher. Atheneum Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31874-0

Three young mice--Horace, Morris and Dolores--go everywhere together; they are ""the greatest of friends, the truest of friends, the now-and-forever-I'm-yours sort of friends."" Walrod makes a show-stopping debut with acrylic-and-cut-paper collages that show the brave trio raiding a milky bowl of cereal and in a circus ring riding on a cat's back toward a flaming hoop in accompaniment to the text: ""They dared to go where no mouse had gone before."" But the fun stops when Horace and Morris join the boys-only Mega-Mice club. ""What kind of place doesn't allow girls?"" Dolores wonders, standing alone outside the boys' stronghold. She goes next door to meet the all-girl Cheese Puffs, pictured in a sugary-pink cottage with a heart-shaped window. They sip tea, strategize on ""How to Get a Fella Using Mozzarella,"" and look askance when Dolores proposes that they build a ""Roque-fort."" However, Dolores finds a kindred spirit in Chloris, and the two found a third, all-inclusive group with a much-relieved Horace and Morris (and a fifth mouse named Boris). In lighthearted prose, Howe, author of the Bunnicula and Pinky and Rex books, points out that ""girl"" and ""boy"" behavior need not be mutually exclusive and pokes fun at the ways gender roles needlessly impose limits and derail friendships. Walrod amplifies Howe's tribute to the ebb and flow of enduring friendship with paintings of the bipedal, childlike mice divided at the crossroads to the two single-sex clubs and united at the entrance to a cave in the closing adventure. Readers can only hope this is just the beginning for Horace, Morris and Dolores. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)