There's a lot going on here: a story within a story--Aunt Isabel, a bohemian-looking mouse, pauses in her artistic endeavors (her drawings and paintings are informally hung around her snug home) to tell little Penelope a spur-of-the-moment story explicitly designed to demonstrate the construction of a plot. Getting some features from her niece (""When does this story begin?"" ""Long, long ago"") while also pointing out the importance of others (""I think we should leave that Problem part out,"" Penelope complains, but ""Just wait till you hear what happens next!"" her aunt replies), she spins a story with classic elements (romance, villains) and a feminist denouement especially designed for her small audience (the heroine, after being spurned by the king and queen, bravely and cleverly saves the prince; there's a grand celebration, but any possible nuptials will occur only after careers are established). The framing story has an appealing warmth and is deftly interwoven with Aunt Isabel's tale so that both narratives move briskly; Duke's attractive watercolor illustrations are also well paced, and reinforce the similarities between the little mouse and the heroine of her aunt's tale. All in all: an entertaining production, with a light touch that saves it from preachiness; the playful introduction to the elements of fiction is especially intriguing, and should be invaluable to creative-writing programs for young children.