The Wolf, The Duck and the Mouse
Early one morning, a mouse meets a wolf, and he is promptly gobbled up. It seems as if our hero’s story has ended by page four, but luckily his adventures are only just beginning. In the wolf’s belly he meets a duck who has adapted splendidly to his cramped but cosy quarters. The mouse is soon living the high life with his new friend, enjoying elegant feasts and raging parties, but when a hunter targets the wolf, all three animals will have to work together to defend their symbiotic existence.
Darkly funny and genuinely absurd, this book won’t be to all children’s tastes. Those who smile instead of cringe at the abrupt wolf attack at the start, however, will be wiping away tears of laughter and cheering by the end. In current political times, there’s certainly an appeal in retreating to a cosy place and hiding away from the rest of the world, and Klassen’s whimsical, earthtoned illustrations make life in the wolf’s stomach look genuinely inviting. The animals’ personalities are beautifully captured, particularly the ironically sheepish wolf, and Klassen’s style works perfectly with Barnett’s arch, restrained text. A double-page spread showing all three animals fighting the hunter – using a sieve, a pan and a hockey stick, no less – and matched with a single word of perfectly chosen dialogue is my personal highlight.