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Children's Books / Story Reviews & Comments

by Deborah Chantson, Toronto, Ontario 2007.03.30-2007.04

[About "Grumps" & "Rabbits" & "College Mice" & "Children's Things Etc."

Mahalia Mouse Goes to College

  • Written by John Lithgow (for children Ages 4-8}
  • Illustrated by Igor Oleynikov
  • Published by Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2007

Mahalia Mouse Goes to College is the story of a food mission leading to bigger and better things. In the story, Mahalia is sent off by her mother to find food for the Mouse family.

" So wrap up in newspaper, keep yourself dry,
And find us some cheese or a scrap of meat pie.
The children are starving.  The babies may die! "

Mahalia finds cheese and roast beef, but is soon swept up into the backpack of a college student.  She suddenly finds herself enamoured with the course contents and new knowledge to acquire.  Mahalia takes the course until a disastrous day when the rest of the students discover her, a mouse, in the classroom.

The professor, however, sees Mahalia's formula-laden notes and recognizes her potential as a genius.  He ensures that Mahalia is to study with him, all expenses paid.  From the illustrations, readers can see that she is even given her very own lab workstation, and the chance to pursue a college degree.

Igor Oleynikov's digitally-treated gouache illustrations add an extra dimension to the story with precise visual conveyance of emotions - wide-eyed Mahalia, the raving professor, the terrified classmates. One could also say that they portray a snapshot in time, with Oleynikov capturing such modern elements as digital cameras at the graduation ceremony, and the high-tech station for Mahalia.

This particular book includes an audio CD of Lithgow’s April 2005 convocation address at Harvard University [emphasis added].  While graduates may have found their own inspiration from Mahalia Mouse Goes to College, children ages four through eight, (as suggested by the publishers) should be able to draw their own as well, in that even the smallest mouse can accomplish the biggest things.

Review by: Deborah Chantson, Toronto, Ontario 2007.05

Oliver Crump Is Not a Grump

  • Written and Illustrated by Lisa Smith (Not So Very Far Away)
  • Published by:  McArthur & Company, Toronto, 2006

This book is best described as a tribute to grandparents.

In the synopsis, Oliver Crump rediscovers the joy of living.  Further explanation provides that the book means to "introduce children to the experience of aging (and perhaps an understanding of their grandparents) and how fulfillment can be found at any age if you look in the right places."  Mr. Oliver Crump, tired of sitting at home and waiting for spring, heads for the outdoors at the first sign of a bloom.  As we journey with Oliver Crump to the hardware store, the market and the park, the only realization that he comes to is that he is not a grump after all.

The story is sweet, but makes one wish for something more . . . adventurous. Perhaps that was just enough excitement that he and the story could handle.

Overall, the tale isn't life-changing, or even moving, but it's a placid story to make one smile at the end. And the watercolour illustrations are soft and gentle -- perfect just before bedtime.

Reviewed by Deborah Chantson, Toronto 2007.04

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

Written by Cressida Cowell
(How to Be a Pirate, How to Train Your Dragon, How to Speak Dragonese)

  • Illustrated by Neal Layton (Oscar, Arabella)
  • Ages 3-7
  • Publishers:  Hyperion Books For Children, New York, 2006

This whimsically-illustrated story follows Queen Gloriana's pursuit of Emily Brown's stuffed bunny, Stanley. As Queen Gloriana proffers teddy bears and dolls in exchange for the beloved toy, she chases Emily Brown to the ends of the earth, only to meet refusals.

"And his name isn't Bunnywunny. It's Stanley," Emily says flatly.

Of course, all's well that ends well, and Queen Gloriana learns a valuable lesson, more about forgiveness than stealing other people's toys.

Layton's illustrations are a surprisingly fantastic combination of mixed media including crayon, magazine cut-outs, photographs, and precise ink drawings. Somehow, the mish-mash works and lends itself well to a lovely story about a little girl who, quite rightly, stands her ground.

Provenance.CA Credits & Footnotes

Deborah Chantson, of Toronto Ontario joined our ranks as a contributing information reviewer in March 2007.  Deborah has a Postgraduate Diploma in Television Writing and Producing from Humber College, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and is a skilled web/graphic design consultant.

Provenance the web magazine/serial began in 1995 with non-formal support from staff at the National Archives of Australia (Adrian Cunningham), the National Library of Canada, Canada's Canada International Research Development Corp. (IDRC) and the a host of Special Librarians (ie members of SLA) in Canada and the USA, and the mentorship of Guy Robertson, M.L.I.S. Managing Editor of and faculty member of Langara College Library Technician Program, Teresa Murphy and Dr. John Evans, then with the University of Papua New Guinea, Dept. of Libary Studies

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see also
    for contributions by librarians and library techs from Canada to Papua New Guinea
    digital books articles and information about Papua New Guinea