Title: Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
Author: David Almond
Illustrator: Dave McKean
Category: Children’s Fiction- Fantasy
Published: May 14, 2013 by Candlewick Press
Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars
The gods have created a world that is safe and calm and rather wonderful. They have built mountains, forests, and seas and filled the world with animals, people, and unnamed beasts. Now their days are fat with long naps in the clouds, mutual admiration, and tea and cake. But their world has gaps in it filled with emptiness, gaps that intrigue Harry, Sue, and little Ben until they begin to see what might fill them. One by one the children conjure, from twigs and leaves and stones, a mousy thing, a chirpy thing, and a twisty legless thing. But as the children’s ideas grow bolder, the power of their visions proves greater and more dangerous than they, or the gods, could ever have imagined. Is it possible to unmake what’s been made?
I have to say first off I feel slightly uneasy with Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond, but maybe I’m supposed to. We have the gods who created the earth sitting up in the clouds napping and complimenting each other, but not really bothering to pay much attention to their creation. The three children take turns filling in the gaps. For me, it’s a story about imagination and creativity and the power that comes with those. So the kids create the animals in the title and their creations truly are marvelous. But the wolf, the wolf is downright scary. Little Ben climbs the tree as it’s brought to life. And when Ben needs the help of the gods the most, the only one paying attention yawns, rolls over and leaves Ben to his own devices.
Ben saves Harry and Sue, but the end is the promise that once this monster was created, it can’t truly be unmade. The wild, howling, fast animal will find its way back into the world.
I love the emphasis on imagination and creating, bringing to life, the things we picture in our minds. I don’t like that those in charge, the gods, are so remote, so uncaring, that even when the children are (spoiler) devoured their creation, they don’t rouse themselves to step in or even offer Ben any encouragement in his task of unmakeing the wolf. It’s a little frightening, in my opinion. We can make horrible monsters but can’t shut them up. Our imaginations can carry us into deep, dark places but we can never fully eradicate them. That’s probably why this book will stay in my mind longer than most children’s books I’ve read.
My review copy was in black and white, but based on the illustration style and the colors on the front I think that graphic novel style images will fit perfectly, will be gorgeous but still have an unnerving tinge to it. I would love to see the final full-color version!