The Voice in the Hollow

Holiday House. Jan. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823436811.
PreS-Gr 3–With spare storytelling that allows readers’ imaginations to run as wild as the protagonist’s, Hillenbrand offers the story of a mouse who braves a storm. Hubert Cumberbun is a mouse who loves spending time at the branch library—the library is in a tree—and good stories. When a snowstorm blows in, the library closes early, and everyone must leave. Hubert has a choice, to head home the long way or to take the shortcut. The storm is so fierce that even though the shortcut is scary, he decides to chance it. As he stumbles through the rapidly worsening blizzard, he smells mothballs just before hearing a voice ask, “Are you going this way?” A mysterious woman appears, offers her hand and the two forge on together through the Hollow. The path takes them over a fallen tree bridge, past hillsides of sleeping bear shapes and a spider tree trunk. Hillenbrand’s snowy landscape is beautifully illustrated and reveals objects with watchful eyes, trees with faces and grasping limbs and roots, while the howling of the wind appears to come from the throat of a bear. A detailed pencil-drawn map of the area shows the long and short way from the library to Hubert’s home, which is through a hole in the barbershop. Cold, snowy pictures show snippets of warmth: the library’s lights, the streetlamps at start and finish of the shortcut, and Hubert’s warm, comfortable home with crackling fireplace and a loving family who are anticipating the story of his curious adventure.
VERDICT There’s not a word out of place in this blustery adventure, a masterful collaboration of illustration and text; this cozy winter tale with its striking pictures may appear to be cold but is quite the opposite.

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