cover image The Witches and the Singing Mice

The Witches and the Singing Mice

Jenny Nimmo, Kate Elizabeth Ernest. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1509-7

In this energetic retelling of an old Celtic tale, three witches spread magic and terror in Glenmagraw village. The ghoulish night visitors make impossible demands of local craftsmen and, their requests refused, send two children into a deep sleep. Local cats Tam and Rory must hunt down singing mice to rouse the sleepers and prevent the witches from striking again. Clear, evocative prose (``ancient trees grinned and threatened, tangled roots caught and tripped the nimble paws''), imbued with a musical lilt, races the text to an uplifting conclusion. Nimmo skillfully combines the legend's romanticism with a pleasingly down-to-earth briskness. Scenes of magic are portrayed with wispily textured artwork while village scenes have a naive freshness. Especially well drawn are the witches transformed into black cats with wild eyes and ``knife-edged'' claws. Their fight with Tam and Rory is all movement, hiss and flying fur. This fine picture book's frisson of fright has the reassuring fillip of a happy ending. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)