Part picaresque novel, part animal fable, a lively adventure of small pond animals off on a quest. In simplest terms, the search for Lilac, a mouse who has been carried off by a hawk, is conducted with traditional Ã‰lan and characters: a naive young snake; a doting uncle mouse; a wise, pontificating toad. The reversals of fortune, the characters met on the way, the excitement of dealing with natural disasters are standard stuff. But the nature of the quest is elevated by the introduction of unexpected elements: magic is introduced midway, and narrator's asides break the frame of the basic tale, surprising the reader into an enlarged conception. And although references to Yeats' ""Lake Isle of Innisfree"" and the significance of an abandoned army helmet from some human war are not really integrated or explained, Balaban's nervous energy keeps the plot moving.