Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole is dedicated to, "Friends of Frog and Toad." And, while it is very much in the style of Frog and Toad, with two friends from the same species (rodent, not amphibian) who are thoughtful homebodies, neither has the neurosis of Toad nor the wisdom of Frog. Nevertheless, this is a great series of books that is perfect for a hungry new reader.
Mouse and Mole live in a tree. Mouse is upstairs in the trunk, Mole is downstairs under the roots. As they go about their days the encounter differences and conflicts but resolve them with care and understanding. Wong Herbert Yee, who is also the author and illustrator of the terrific Fireman Small picture books, draws rodents reminiscent of Kevin Henkes' Lilly and friends. Like his story, his illustrations are quiet, homey and simple, but not simplistic. And, the stories are funny and playful. Mishaps ensue when darkness-loving Mole visits Mouse's sunny kitchen and when Mouse gets a few bumps while dining at Mole's on lightly fried and raw worms. But, they each, in their own turn, realize that they are different creatures with different likes and dislikes and end the story by exchanging gifts to help out during subsequent visits - sunglasses and candles. In the last story in the book, Mouse and Mole have a grand time trying to row a boat with one oar and floating along in the rain.
For readers who aren't ready to make the jump to longer chapter books like Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series, books like Upstairs Mouse, Down Stairs Mole, Frog and Toad and George and Martha and Houndsley and Catina are perfect in tone, content and length. The stories, though brief, have substance and value and are meaningful, unlike so many of the other mass produced beginning reader books. I think that, if they lived in the same countryside, Mouse and Mole would be friends of Frog and Toad as well as for friends of Frog and Toad.