S. & S./Paula Wiseman. Feb. 2022. 68p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480413.
PreS-Gr 2–Mina is a bookish little mouse whose peaceful solitude is often interrupted by her irrepressible father, who has a habit of bringing home “surprises from the outside world.” When he brings home a truly shocking surprise, Mina can only respond with, “I don’t think that’s a squirrel.” It is clearly a cat. As Mina’s unease about cohabitating with a cat grows, her father brushes off her concerns. It is only after bringing home two more “squirrels,” and seeking the advice of a doctor because they will not eat the proffered acorns, that the simmering tension boils over. Forsythe (Pokko and the Drum) delivers a wickedly humorous cat and mouse tale. Many young readers will identify with Mina, who is so obviously correct and so unjustly dismissed. Mina’s father does not come off as cruel, simply too stubbornly optimistic to give credence to worry. Forsythe’s wry, concise text is enhanced by stylized and whimsical illustrations in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil. Mina and her father are drawn in a slightly abstract, minimalist style, which has the effect of making the more richly detailed cats seem all the more threatening. One indelible page pairs the text, “That night Mina couldn’t sleep,” with the image of a wide-eyed Mina and her sanguine father in their brightly lit bedroom, while the massive face of the smug cat looms over their beds, its dark body extending into the adjoining page, seemingly draining the light and color from around it. The visual storytelling is exquisite, drawing readers in to search for the small details, such as the direction of a character’s gaze, that tell the real story. The book as a whole is engaging, perfectly paced and full of controlled suspense and biting humor.
VERDICT This expertly crafted and delightfully quirky picture book is recommended for first purchase.

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