cover image Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

David Almond, illus. by Dave McKean. Candlewick, $17.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5912-7

Almond and McKean, the collaborators behind The Savage and Slog’s Dad, take on themes worthy of Greek tragedy: human ambition, the emergence of evil, and the power of the individual to resist it. Harry, Sue, and Little Ben live in a world whose lazy gods have made creatures like whales and camels but have given up their work, leaving blank spaces, “places filled with emptiness.” The children discover that they can create animals themselves, using sticks, leaves, and clay; Little Ben makes a mouse; Sue, a bird; and Harry, a snake. But Harry and Sue aren’t satisfied. They create a terrifying wolf that turns on them and eats them, and Little Ben must summon the courage to save them. McKean draws swirly, sinewy portraits of the children, the gods, and the animals, skillfully capturing Little Ben’s anguished face as he appeals to the indolent gods for help. First cousin to Philip Pullman’s imaginings, this contemporary fable about man’s power to create and to destroy may be controversial in settings where questioning biblical creation stories is taboo, but where questioning is encouraged, it will challenge and provoke. Ages 7–up. (Mar.)