“Ship in a Bottle“ by Andrew Prahin (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Tuesday), ages 3-7, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook.
STORY: A mouse named Mouse lives with a cat named Cat. They have conflicting goals. No matter the situation, they want different things.
When Mouse wants to eat a gingersnap, Cat wants to eat Mouse.
When Mouse wants to enjoy pretending to be the captain of a ship inside a glass bottle, Cat wants to eat Mouse.
When Mouse wants to lie in the sun, Cat wants to lie in the sun, too, and eat Mouse.
So Mouse crams the bottle with gingersnaps and rolls it out a window and into a quiet river. The weather's fine as she lolls atop the bottle, munching her gingersnaps and drifting past pastel fields and quiet trees.
But other animals want the gingersnaps. Sometimes their intentions are clearly larcenous (seagulls); other times they hide behind a facade of friendliness (rabbits).
After the rabbits set her adrift with nothing but crumbs and rumbling stomach, Mouse encounters a lashing storm, and angry waves toss the bottle. She finally beaches in a very different-looking place, with a city in the distance and human debris along the shore. She's hungry and downcast. But she's also in luck, because the animals in this place want to help her. Eventually she feels well at home and safe.
And what of Cat? The last we see, Cat is alone and unhappy.
Without any overt preachiness but a wealth of subtle humor, "Ship in a Bottle" makes a case for empathy: Refugees live or die on the kindness of strangers.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.