Since her debut in 1986 with Old Bear, Hissey has delighted children with her signature colored-pencil drawings that breathe life into stuffed animals.
Her latest character, Ruby, a little mouse in a red, knitted sweater, is racing with her friends Blanket and Blue when three Naughty Cats get in the way and make them tumble. The cats continue to interfere with their play until Blanket, a toy horse, suggests letting them join their games. The illustrations are vibrant and vividly rendered, especially the textiles. The story is sweet and one that small children will be able to relate to, although the rhyming couplets sometimes seem to force the plot: “ ‘Here’s a nice place for a picnic,’ said Blanket. / Ruby mixed up lemonade and they drank it. / But, while they were eating, the Naughty Cats came / And they soon turned the picnic into a game.” Alternate spreads feature text set in a rather scratchy type in wavy lines, offering some cues for reading aloud the sometimes-charmless writing, but the design element is too meager to enhance the story. A more straightforward storytelling style, which this author is known for, would better match the lovely pictures.
Still, there’s much here for fans to appreciate after the long absence of a favorite author. (Picture book. 3-6)