FABULOUS FIVE: Daisy Hirst presents five fabulous books starring mice
Daisy Hirst’s latest book I Do Not Like Books Anymore! (Walker Books) is the second title featuring sibling monsters Natalie and Alphonse and in this new adventure readers find out just how much they love stories. Whether they are being read to or recreating them or even making them up, stories bring them joy. Natalie cannot wait therefore to learn to read so she can access even more stories and share them with Alphonse. But when she finally does, things don’t quite work out as she had anticipated. Reading is hard at first, and the books she is given in order to learn are not exciting. Natalie is losing her faith in books, but making up stories with Alphonse might just be the answer to her woes.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore! offers a refreshingly honest perspective on the many challenges children face as they learn to read, and offers reassurance for those children who might find themselves in this situation . Hirst’s bold, colourful screen prints have a childlike quality which allow her to touch on sensitive themes in a safe way (you can read more about Daisy’s process for I Do Not Like Books Any More! on the Walker Big Picture Books Instagram account). This particular spread is a superb visual depiction of what being unable to decipher text might feel like:
While never straying from the light-hearted tone of the tale, Hirst does offer a potent commentary of reading schemes and how their blandness, although seen as necessary by some, is a real turn-off for children.
Hirst celebrates storytelling in all its forms: imaginative play, drawing, writing and reading, and what I particularly love is that it full of scenes of shared and communal reading, both inside or outside of the home. It is joyful!
I am delighted to welcome Daisy to Library Mice for the latest Fabulous Five feature:
Five fabulous books about mice
by Daisy Hirst
When I was trying to choose a theme for this post I thought SURELY, for Library Mice, somebody will have done books about mice? But if they have, I can’t find it – which is fortunate as six or seven scurried into my head at once and I realized that some of my very favourite picture books are mouse books. I think they must make particularly good heroes for books aimed at small people in a large and unreasonable world.
The only connection between mice and I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! is that one of the forty-something tiny books included in the illustrations is a mouse book (of course):
Trubloff the Mouse who wanted to play the Balalaika
It’s basically impossible for me to choose my favourite John Burningham book, but if I HAD to, it might be Trubloff. It’s the story of a musically-inclined mouse born at an inn in “a village in Central Europe where the winters were very cold and snowy.” Trubloff runs away with some travelling musicians to learn the balalaika and later skis home through blizzards with his sister to rescue their family from illness and cats. Perhaps the most striking thing about it is the contrast between tiny mice, vast snowscapes and incredible skies (in purple, brown and fiery red). The text has a wonderful confiding tone – as if you were sitting by a campfire in the snow, listening to a master-storyteller. Also, the ending is perfect.
Amos and Boris
Maybe Amos and Boris is my favourite William Steig book partly because I had it as a child, but it is brilliant. Amos is a very brave, and philosophical, mouse who loves the sea so much that he builds a boat and sails away into terrible danger. He is rescued by Boris, a whale, and the two become “the closest possible friends.” Like Trubloff’s, this text is longer than is usual in picturebooks now – which can be great with a writer this good. Steig’s writing somehow takes the inner lives of mice and whales – and children – very seriously whilst also being hilarious. The restrained colour lets us focus on the drawing, which is gloriously expressive and alive.
I don’t really think of Noisy Nora as a mouse – she’s just Nora – but I was pleased to remember she was one as this book is very important to me. It’s a perfect rhyming text – I can’t think of a better one – about the frustrations of a middle-child mouse: “Jack had dinner early, Father played with Kate, Jack needed burping, So Nora had to wait.” Like some of my chracters, I was a fairly stompy, door-slamming person when I was small, and left home a number of times – so it was probably reassuring to see Nora make lots of noise and mess and run away and still be missed and welcomed back. The only thing is, for me it’s got to be the scratchy, spare, limited-colour 1973 version rather than the later redrawn one.
Ernest and Celestine
I associate Ernest – a large bear who I always thought of as the father of Celestine, a mouse – with my very tall dad, who carried me around a lot. Just as Ernest knows what to do when Celestine’s beloved toy Gideon is lost in the snow, my dad seemed to know how to make or fix EVERYTHING. I had an awful terror of losing my toys (they were all alive and couldn’t manage on their own), which is probably why this particular Ernest and Celestine book (there are several) had such a hold on me. The relationship between the characters is tenderly evoked through a text made up entirely of dialogue, and line and wash illustrations that have a luminous light and weather and are full of little details to spot.
Maisy goes to Bed
I honestly think this is the best book-with-paper-engineering I know: it’s just ridiculously satisfying. There are many Maisy books with clever flaps and pull-tabs, but in this one YOU GET TO FLUSH THE TOILET. And pull out the toilet-roll. And brush Maisy’s teeth and read her bedtime book-within-a-book and turn back the covers to check her panda is tucked in too. This is the only one of the five that I didn’t have as a child (well, I might have been 12 when I met it) but Cousins’ bold, splodgy paint and warm rich colours still make me very happy.
Thank you so much Daisy for this wonderful Fabulous Five full of mice. Indeed, no one had ever thought of writing a Fabulous Five full of mice, and I am very grateful you did.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore is out now and you can purchase a copy here.
Review copy kindly supplied by the publisher