Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole by Herbert Wong Yee was one of the first books I reviewed when I started my blog in the fall of 2008. I am so happy to be able to review the sixth book in this series, Mouse and Mole, A Perfect Halloween.
Opposites make for great pairs in early readers. Something that endeared me immediately to Yee's books was the dedication to"Friends of Frog and Toad" that appeared in Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole. Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories, along with many other books by Lobel, were a memorable part of my childhood reading and perhaps because of that mismatched pairs always resonate with me. But, beyond that, odd couples are great for some under-the-radar lessons about how to be - or not to be. With Mouse and Mole, A Perfect Halloween Yee goes meta and includes a story within his story that gently teaches the reader and Mole not to be so frightened by the spooky nature of the season.
Chapters "A Skeleton in the Closet," "Perfect Pumpkins," "The Contest," and "Fraidy-Mouse, Scardey-Mole" take the friends through the days preceding Halloween as they prepare for the holiday. Mouse hangs a skeleton (that she finds in her closet) outside in the oak tree that scares Mole, who has just had a bad dream about being chased by one. The two decide to enter the Halloween Pumpkin Carving contest and head to the patch. Picking and carving pumpkins is the perfect setting for the differences in the way the reserved Mole and the boisterous Mouse approach life. Of course, Mole wants to be prepared and carves his pumpkin as soon as he gets home, putting it in a box as instructed in the contest rules, then taking the extra step of burying it under a pile of leaves so that Mouse will not see it and copy his design. This makes for an interesting response from the judges when they open Mole's box and see his creation.
My favorite part of the book comes in the last chapter when Mouse decides to takes Mole's fear in hand and ensure that they have a happy, fun Halloween by - drumroll - reading him a book!!! Mouse tells Mole that she is going to read him a Halloween story and, when Mole tremblingly asks if it is scary, she replies, "Scary, yes - but exciting too!" The rhyming story, which is included in the book, along with images of Mouse reading to Mole and Mole reacting, features a fraidy-Mouse and a tiny mole who are friends. As the fraidy-Mouse and tiny mole celebrate Halloween and try to be brave in the dark night, Mole is so engrossed in the story that he falls right off his chair. When Mouse asks if she should stop reading the story Mole begs her not to, assuring her that, while the story is scary, it is exciting too. The two head out to choose their Halloween costumes and, in a nice little twist, Mole even has the chance to give Mouse a little shiver!
Don't miss this other great beginning to read Halloween story from Megan McDonald and G Brain Karas, Ant and Honeybee, A Pair of F