Beginning with the fable from Aesop, Buhler creates an answer to the question of who will bell the cats. The story is one of two very different but very nearby worlds. One is the world of privilege and pampering of the princess and her eight cats. The other is the world below the floor of Mouse and his friend Bat who live on the crumbs and waste of the world above them. Mouse yearns to sleep on perfumed pillows, and eat gorgeous meals, so he makes plans to bell the cats so they will be warned of any approach by the cats. He creates a suit of armor and a sword, but the cats just play ping-pong with him. He dresses up as a dog to scare the cats, but they play floor hockey with him. They put on a fashion show for the cats, but end up in mouse and bat pies, and are rescued by the kind princess. Finally, Mouse has a great idea that answers the question of the entire book.
I must first comment on the illustrations of the book which caught my attention immediately. They are done as miniature sets that Von Buhler built by hand. The characters are flat paper against the 3-D sets, making for a very theatrical feel. Her sets are done in deep colors that make them atmospheric and dramatic. Each room has small touches that demonstrate the care she has taken with the entire book.
Against the elaborate illustrations, her writing is simple and will read aloud well. The book is paced nicely, aided by quite a bit of humor that helps carry the story along. There is tension with each new plan from Mouse and a real sense of danger. The drama of the storyline works well with the theatrical sets.
Great drama in a lovely theater of a book, this book will reach out to anyone who spots the cover. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Make sure to take a look at Cynthia von Buhler’s blog and get a glimpse of how she built the illustrations.
Reviewed from library copy.
-Tasha Saeker, Menasha Public Library, Kids Lit