cover image TEN MICE FOR TET


Pegi Deitz Shea, Cynthia Weill, Chronicle Books, , illus. by To Ngoc Trang, embroidery by Phanm Viet Dinh. . Chronicle, $15.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3496-4

Weill, who worked for an international relief organization in Vietnam, Shea and Trang use a counting-book format to introduce readers to Tet—the Vietnamese new year—"as big a celebration as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas combined!" according to the helpful and extensive endnotes. The book serves as a marvelous showcase for Viet Dinh's embroidery; Trang's clean compositions provide the template for the embroidery. The story follows ever-growing groups of mice in a traditional Vietnamese village as they prepare for and enjoy the Tet festivities. Some aspects of the pictures will strike a chord with readers regardless of their background—three mice clean their home, six mice open presents, 10 mice admire a fireworks display. But the book also emphasizes how a culture's beliefs shape the observance of a holiday. As "1 mouse plans a party," for instance, sinewy white-thread clouds of incense rise from an altar and waft through the room (the endnote explains that the fragrance and offerings are meant to beckon ancestors). Older readers will most appreciate the pictures' exquisite craftsmanship—every inch of every spread is covered in thread—but the cheery cartoon mice, the vivid Southeast Asian palette (the use of pink is particularly striking) and exuberant compositions will hold the interest of even the youngest readers. This attractive volume may well provoke a lively discussion of how another culture's holiday can seem both familiar and exotic. Ages 2-8. (Nov.)