CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002
With the assistance of an adult, preschoolers will be able to enjoy the adventures two sister moles have in their rural world with the elements of nature. In The Mole Sisters and the Wavy Wheat, the two underground dwellers have the heady adventure of reaching the top of a wheat field and experiencing the delight of seeing the world from a new perspective. In The Mole Sisters and the Busy Bees, the moles frolic in a meadow of wild flowers. Both adventures start out with innocuous decisions - turning left instead of right and following a busy bee on a lazy day when they have nothing to do. An element of danger, which is diffused in a humorous manner, occurs in each story before the mole sisters return to the calm of their daily life. The wheat bends in the wind so the mole sisters are able to reach the ground safely, and the pollen that has stuck to their noses gets transferred to bees via giant sneezes.
Schwartz's pencil-colored illustrations significantly extend the simple text. The colors are soft and her backgrounds are muted shadings of color. The mole sisters, themselves, are simple two-toned oval shapes with stick legs and small dots for eyes. Small mouths are drawn to show delight. Their front paws with three digits are the mole sisters' most clearly defined features, and Schwartz uses them to give the moles human mannerisms, such as waving. The objects that are the source of their frolicking are the most sharply defined in her illustrations.
Though the experience of being in a wheat field or flower filled meadow is outside of most young urban children's understanding, Schwartz's skillful use of onomatopoeia draws them into the experience. We hear the mole sisters' delight while they frolic in the wheat and the flowers, and we know what they are doing by the sounds they make.
The subtly of the text and illustrations of these gentle books will require child/adult interaction to obtain their maximum potential. The humor in the mole sisters' books is meant to charm. Schwartz's endings reassure children that unknown objects can become part of their safe environment. The Mole Sisters and the Wavy Wheat and The Mole Sisters and the Busy Bees are good books for preschoolers to share while sitting quietly with on their parent's lap.
Kathleen Kirk is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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