Written by Don and Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood
Child’s Play, Inc., 1984
Hello, little Mouse.
What are you doing?
The plot in a nutshell: A mouse fears losing his strawberry to a bear.
The book’s narrator deduces that the mouse is about to pick the big strawberry growing on the vine near his house and warns him about the big hungry bear, who loves strawberries. The narrator tells the mouse that the bear will smell the strawberry from miles away and come get it. The mouse tries to hide it, protect it and disguise it, but the narrator points out that the only way to keep it would be to split the strawberry into two halves so that the two of them (the mouse and the narrator) can eat it before the bear does.
The husband and wife team of Don and Audrey Wood have written and illustrated many books together, usually with Audrey writing the story and Don doing the artwork. This was one of the few books in which the two teamed up to co-write the book. Reading the book as an adult, you get the sense of an ulterior motive from the narrator, putting the fear of this alleged bear into the mouse in order to coerce him into sharing his strawberry. Kids may or may not get this right away, so it provides some great lead-ins to talk about getting tricked by others and being motivated by insubstantial fear.
Mr. Wood’s artwork is wonderfully whimsical, giving the mouse a lovable appearance and a warm and cozy woodland home. The pictures of the mouse trying to protect the strawberry are all very funny (especially when he tries to disguise it by putting a fake nose and glasses on it) and the final image of the mouse stretching out for a satisfied nap with the strawberry stem on his head is a perfect ending. I originally chose this book to be part of my Bear theme month, but after reading it and realizing that there isn’t really a bear here at all, I had to disqualify it as not really fitting the theme. But it’s a swell book all the same that’s easy and fun to read.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s wise to be safe and protect yourself, but don’t do anything drastic until you know whether or not a threat is real.