It’s a relief to find a story about lemmings with a happy ending.
The lemmings in this picture book aren’t precisely cheerful. Their idea of fun is to “perform long and serious plays,” although they “play the piano exceedingly well!” Their activities always conform to a strict set of rules (10 of them) including, notably, “no unseemly or wild behavior.” Unlike the lemmings of legend, they do not march off a cliff, but they do follow the lemming tradition of making a “migration” into the ocean, where they face the risk of drowning. Fortunately, they’ve made a new friend, an enormous bear, who—in the tradition of a good parable—follows none of the rules but turns out to be extremely talented at swimming. The moral isn’t terribly heavy-handed. The lessons about tolerance and culture clashes are far outnumbered by the jokes. Many pages are nearly filled with lemming word balloons, as in a comic book. They’re also filled with lemmings: Colombet’s creatures have the look of those that appeared in the marginalia of old illuminated manuscripts, but in this book—to readers’ benefit—they take up just about every inch of the page. A surprisingly large percentage of the jokes actually work, and the lemmings in the pictures are delightfully wide-eyed and shaggy.
Even the most rule-bound reader will be cheered up by these stodgy lemmings. (Picture book. 5-10)