Friday, October 30, 2009

"A Cautionary Tale:" Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen

Once upon a twice,
In the middle of the nice,
The moon was on the rise,
and Mice were scoutaprowl.

They runtunnel through the riddle--
Secret ruts laid in betwiddle.
But one mousling jams the middle
Whilst he goofiddles, by the hole.

In the midst of a moonlit midnight, shepherded by eldermice, a troop sets forth to forage in the inky rice paddies of a southern night. Despite the greybeards' warnings not to loiter or linger outside their secret deep-worn pathways, one youngling, Jam Boy, stays and stops the line to smell the roses and sniff the scents about him.
"Do not disturb the bugs of June,"
The elder mouncelors whispercroon.

"Dangers lurk in the lettuce.
Twixt the celery, stalkers get us!
Open moonlight is a menace."

But despite warnings, this "riskrascal" falls behind and, once alone, yields to the lure of tempting tastes and adventures just ahead in the blue-purple dark. Beside a pond he stops, bedazzled by the jeweled beetles' wings and diamond dewdrops, as unseen "half-submerged, a slender queen/esses 'cross the pond unseen." The snake's attack comes swiftly and with a "squeak-eek! and a splash, Jam and the snake vanish below the water.
Alas! Silence descends like mud a-deep
On the creatures round the beach.

"Mouse years" pass, and then we see Jam, "wiser, whiskers now grown long" a fortunate survivor who now warns the young mouselings about him:
"When the moon is full awake,
she's the ally of the snake.
You wanderyonder by the lake?
Make no're in a jam!
The world afield is dangerouse,
Foraging is--for a mouse--
A nightly duel and joust.
The House of Mice has many mourned.
Be forewarned!"

Breathtakingly detailed illustrations, in Barry Moser's rich deep blue, black, and ochre palette, and poetic language, sparked with evocative, playful neologisms, from author Denise Doyen make their Once Upon a Twice (Picture Book) (Random House, 2009), a simple prodigal mouse tale, into an enthralling picture book experience. As Kirkus Review states, "This slight cautionary tale is undeniably arrayed in a gorgeous brocade, woven of fresh, inventive wordplay and masterful illustrations."

Watch for this one at winter award time.

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