Some problems aren’t what you think they are, as this quietly humorous picture book illustrates.
J.D.’s got a problem: There’s a mouse scratching in his wall, and it’s keeping him awake at night. First, he consults a pet-store owner, who offers him a cat to get rid of the mouse. But the cat starts scratching, too! After the next sleepless night, J.D. calls a dogcatcher. “Maybe the dogcatcher can help me. He catches animals all day long.” The dogcatcher has a fantastical robot—sure to please detail-loving young kids—and promises to rid J.D. of the mouse. But the robot makes scratching noises, too! J.D. flees the house in desperation, followed closely by the mouse, who wants to explain that he was just sweeping his home, not scratching, and is done making noise now. Problem solved—no cat or complicated robot necessary. It’s just absurd enough for young audiences to enjoy. Gabriele (Sofia’s Backwards Day, 2012, etc.) uses language that is natural, simple and a pleasure to read out loud. Jones’ illustrations suit the tenor of the story to a T and add quirky details, like the line of owls that grows outside J.D.’s window as the drama unfolds. The story isn’t entirely satisfying, however: As soon as J.D. picks up the cat, it looks pretty obvious where the book is headed: down the road of other funny, cumulative folk stories and songs (think “The House that Jack Built” and “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”). But J.D. tries just two scratch-eradicating solutions before his problem solves itself. Since three seems to be the magic number in literature (and the bare minimum needed for a cumulative story, right?), the book feels unfinished, like it got just two-thirds of the way there. In the end, J.D., the mouse and the cat tuck themselves in and go to sleep. And, like a little mouse scratching at the wall, there’s a niggling question: That’s it? No twist? No little wink at the reader? It’s too bad. It would have been a nice cap to an otherwise enjoyable book.
Sweet, warm, friendly, unique and utterly readable.