"Brave as a Mouse" by Nicolo Carozzi (Random House Studio, Tuesday), ages 3-7, 40 pages, $17.99.
STORY: In this wrongheaded but charming animal fantasy, a mouse (possibly a fancy mouse) infests a quiet home ruled by three sleek cats. The mouse is friends with a goldfish and some gray house mice.
The goldfish lives in a wide-mouth bowl atop a sideboard. Room, bowl, fish, the mice, the cats — all of this colored pencil world is so beautiful that we are not troubled to see the mouse blowing bubbles through a drinking straw to amuse the fish.
Their play draws the cats' predatory attention. Hectic, comical adventure ensues. At points, the book pauses to ask whether the mouse's choices are a good idea. The answer sometimes is "no," but "no" becomes "yes." The brave mouse distracts the cats, buying time for a team of mice to collaborate on a fish extraction. Mice scamper with the fish into city streets and toss it off a park bridge.
After the (apparently not omnivorous) mice release this pet-shop species into the wild, and the book asks, "Was it a good idea?" the joyful fish jumps high, and "Yes, it was!" says the text. The book ends in a scene fraught with trouble for three sleek cats.
But wait — is it a good idea to release a pet goldfish into a river? That seems like bad practice, and not merely to me (see arkansasonline.com/524fish).
But Carozzi's lovely illustrations are a strong selling point. Perhaps this pretty, funny story is a conversation starter about the perils of fiction.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.