I can’t tell you how much I love this book. It’s the only picture book I’ve read that really gets to the heart of the creative process, how strong an idea can be, how it can take over your entire imagination until, finally you find what you’re looking for.
It’s playfully written by Giovanna Zoboli and translated from the Italian by Antony Shuggar. Lisa D’Andrea illustrated it with the sweetest colored pencil drawings, emphasizing form over splashy colors. There’s lots of white space in the story — room for imagination and for a fantasy about mice — one hundred mice, one million mice!
But especially one mysterious mouse that hides on the edge of a wide eyed tabby cat’s imagination. A mouse he can’t quite see as well as he’d like, but knows is there, if only he thinks, imagines, spends enough time alone, pondering mice.
And he’s not doing all this creative work for food — he wants it to understand it, appreciate its particular mouse-ness and bring it fully to life.
What creative person can’t identify with that? What child, left alone long enough, won’t begin to imagine something wonderful, if only they have time to daydream? Whether it’s an image, a story, a song — we have to sit with our ideas for as long as it takes until the right one comes along. The one only we can bring to life.
After I first read this book, I was taking a water aerobics class with a 13 year old girl. I was staring off into space like I often do, and she asked, “What do you think of when you stare off like that?” I hadn’t even realized I’d been daydreaming. I told her, “A most mysterious mouse.” And when we were back from our exercise class, I read her the book.
Even though she felt she was too old for picture books, I’d been reading to her for years, so she indulged me. We had a lovely discussion on the need to be alone with our own thoughts, about how all-consuming it was when an idea took over you, and how satisfying it is when you finally figure out what it is you want.
I had this discussion with much younger kids, too, most who seemed to innately understand the cat’s dilemma.
I like reading picture books from other cultures where the stories are little longer, a little more philosophical and not so plot driven. This one in particular gives lots of room for discussion and letting our minds drift.
This is Giovanna Zoboli’s first book, but she has been working as a publisher since 2004, when she co-founded Topipittori, an Italian publishing house that specializes in illustrated books for children and young people.
Lisa D’Andrea lives and works in Padua, Italy, and had devoted herself to drawing and painting her entire life.
Antony Shuggar, is a writer and translator, working from Italy and France.
This book was published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books, an independent, family-owned children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York. For reviews of more of their books that I’ve posted, please check the following links:
The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martin and illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho
The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacmo.
The Jacket by Kirsten Hall and illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Mathew Burgess and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Cry, Heart, But Never Breakby Danish writer Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi.
Edmond: The Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes and illustrated by Marc Boutavant
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