Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes, 48 pp, RL 1.5
Charlie & Mouse Even Better
illustrated by Emily Hughes
Review Copy from Chronicle Books
Last year I glowingly, gleefully reviewed the first book in this fantastic new beginning reader series (that also won the Theodore Seuss Geisel award!), Charlie & Mouse. In addition to the Zen-like simplicity and depth Snyder brings to her characters, their stories and their dialogue, together with Hughes, they are ushering in a new, subtle diversity in generally bland beginning reader series, both with socioeconomic status and biracial, non-binary characters.
The first chapter, "Pancakes," finds mom taking orders, making them in increasingly challenging shapes, met with assurances of, "Mom is the best," with each serving. When a dragon pancake fails to impress, Charlie and Mouse noting that it does not look like a dragon, Mom responds, "It is a dragon that annoyed its mother . . . " by asking for too many pancakes. The next three chapters are dedicated to shopping for a birthday gift for mom, decorating the house for a celebration and diverting mom while the surprise is prepared.
As always, Hughes's illustrations are a delight. Knowing that she is a native of Hawaii, it was a treat to see her main street scene when Charlie and Mouse go gift shopping with dad. Along with palm trees and the Pacific Market, shoppers are seen in an array of sandals and bare arms, one even crossing the street with two rainbow shave ice in her hands. My favorite, and laugh out loud moment, came in the final story, "Surprise." When dad burns the cake and Charlie has an idea that needs a few extra minutes of diversion after mom arrives home, Mouse says, "I am up to the task!" A page turn shows Mouse in one of those terrycloth kid's bathrobes that have a hood with eyes, making them look like an animal. A sweet smile, a froggy-faced green robe, pink slippers with blue flowers for decoration (and a sprinkling of blue flowers in the entryway) greet Mom as she arrives home. This is followed by a cheeky - but genius - demand from Mouse to, "sit on the couch and hug me for four minutes." This gives Charlie time to make a heart-shaped birthday pancake that delivers smiles all around.