cover image The Three Mouths of Little Tom Drum

The Three Mouths of Little Tom Drum

Nancy Willard, illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5476-4

Little Tom Drum’s mother scolds him the night before his birthday party when he begs for another slice of strawberry pie: “Have you three mouths?” When he sneaks downstairs for more and gets caught, two more mouths appear on his face. He can’t go to school (“What would people say?” his father groans), so he tinkers in his workshop, assembling a wishing machine kit and wishing for his old, one-mouthed face. Little Tom’s ingenious creations are the story’s greatest charm—as the months pass, he invents artificial paws for dogs and speedy shoes for grandmothers, drawing fans. “We don’t want you to look like everybody else!” cry the children who have grown to love him. It seems to be a setup for a story about accepting oneself—a story that might comfort readers who don’t look like others—but Willard (The Flying Bed) supplies a happy ending after all, one that restores Tom’s “normal” appearance while (oddly) regressing his age. The tale enthralls nonetheless, especially with Hawkes’s (Remy and Lulu) lush pen-and-ink panels, a winsome combination of small-town wholesomeness and mechanical fantasy. Ages 4–8. Author’s agency: Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Feb.)