Review: Two Trips with Mouse
Toon Books has put out two charming travel books by Frank Viva for Level 1 (grades K-1) readers.
In both, a traveler heads to extreme areas — Antarctica and Mount Etna — accompanied by a mouse. The mouse is chatty and child-like, constantly listing things seen and asking questions, providing a welcome connection to the unusual settings.
A Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse
Hardcover, $12.95 / Paperback $6.99
Mouse and the traveler take a boat to Antarctica and deal with the intense cold. Mouse, eager to arrive, then spends most of the time asking when they can go home, but that doesn’t distract from the impressive vistas. Plus, several types of penguins, and a whale!
Viva’s style is reminiscent of layered construction paper shapes, but with more detail. There are flat blocks of color that convey feeling as well as image. The color palette here—greyish blue, steel grey, ivory—feels icy, but gold and brick red areas add warmth. One two-page spread with the boat, small by comparison, surrounded by icebergs under the moon beautifully encapsulates the whole journey.
Mouse’s attempt to understand the world through enumeration, lists of various animals seen or pieces of protective clothing needed, is understandable as a way to reassert control in a new, scary, but amazing environment. Kids will relate.
A Trip to the Top of the Volcano With Mouse
Mouse and the traveler climb a volcano in Italy, while Mouse spends most of the time asking when they can eat pizza. The landscape around the mountain contains a variety of crops, animals, and temperatures.
The colors, as expected, are warmer, with brown, orange, and midnight blue joining the obvious red, black, and ivory. A cross-section of the volcano is included to show how complex it is, beyond simply a container of lava.
Complicated as the trips are, Mouse always ends up wanting to return, which is a feeling shared by the reader, who can enjoy these short journeys over and over.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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