CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003
After several disastrous escape attempts, Ned hits on a brilliant plan. It occurs to him that, though all incoming letters are opened by the warden, letters sent out are unopened. Thus is born Ned's ingenious design to ship himself off, piece by piece, to his friend Mort who lives by the sea. After making a replacement in the prison workshop for each of his body parts, the clever rodent, sends his real self off, parcel by parcel, under the pretense of sending a puzzle to Mort. Finally, only his brain and his good right arm (necessary for writing final mailing instructions) are left. Fortunately for Ned, his keeper (as kind as he is strong) has the brains of a tree. Fortunately for readers, Ned Mouse Breaks Away has a joyous ending with a wonderfully wacky Wynne Jonesian twist guaranteed to delight young and old.
Though simply told, there is plenty of sly wit for older readers to relish in this tale by the multi talented Wynne-Jones who will be remembered as a two time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Some of the Kinder Planets (1993) and The Maestro (1995), as well as for his trilogy of picture books about the mysterious feline, Zoom. Older readers who note the dedication to Herman Bianchi (a researcher into non punitive crime control) may read between the lines to pick up the author's subtle critique of this country's justice system.
Illustrator Dušan Petrišcic is a distinguished editorial cartoonist who created the hilarious illustrations for Tim Wynne-Jones' On Tumbledown Hill, a picture book published in 1998. Petrišcic’s pen and wash depictions of the determined mouse and his gentle giant of a keeper are irresistible, while his drawing style perfectly captures the tongue in cheek mood of the author's story/fable.
Ned Mouse's story, a deceptively simple tale told with plenty of dialogue, will be fun to read aloud to an older group of elementary students. It might also work well as a literature circle selection for a group of gifted readers in grades 2, 3 or 4. Like all good children's books, Ned Mouse Breaks Away may be read on more than one level, thereby providing the best kind of challenge for young readers.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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