Written by Dennis Haseley, Illustrated by Juli Kangas
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004
Mole was a photographer. He specialized in portraits.
Previously Reviewed Books from this Author: A Story for Bear
Mole is a photographer. He is always on hand to commemorate important events in his town and everyone loves his portraits. Everyone loves having him to dinner and each person or family is particularly proud of the way that he has captured their distinct look or posed them perfectly in their portrait. But Mole is dissatisfied and his dissatisfaction grows more pronounced as he looks at his favorite portraits. He closes his shop and tells his friends that he is going away to try to find what is missing. They see him to the train station to say goodbye and he tells them he will return when he finds what he is looking for. Events happen in town without Mole there to photograph them. He sends pictures to his friends, but nothing seems changed, until one day he sends a picture of a flower and says he’s coming home. When he steps off the train, everyone is there to welcome him home and he introduces them to his new wife. His life complete, he is now the subject of photographs and not just the photographer.
You know, I don’t think you can go wrong with a mole as your main character. There’s something about them, particularly the way they always seem to be illustrated in picture books, that is warm and vulnerable and sweet. Maybe it’s the fact that they are almost always drawn with thick glasses and cute furry faces. Photographer Mole is no exception and his adorableness is even further accentuated by the little three piece suit and bow tie that he wears. Illustrator Juli Kangas totally won my heart with her artwork, rendered in ink, watercolor and oil wash. Her characters are rich with personality and the backgrounds are loaded with intricate details, including wood grain, brickwork and patterned fabrics.
Author Dennis Haseley has written this story in such a way that it has a nostalgic feel to it, but it conveys a very modern lesson, particularly when you consider the pervasiveness of smart phones with photo and video capability. I love that we see Mole’s friends caring about him as a person, not just as a photographer. They leave an empty chair at their dinner tables while he’s away, which is charming. I also really like that Mole typically poses his groups with serious expressions, but the family pictures we see him in at the end of the story are all full of smiles. Clearly he has found what his life was missing and all of his friends are very happy for him.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that life is to be lived and enjoyed and not just documented.