An ordinary mouse, dreaming of a less ordinary life, sets off on a journey that tests her in this new take on the story told by John Steptoe in The Story of Jumping Mouse (1984).
When a little female mouse suggests to the other mice that they set off to find the High Places of legend, she realizes the others don’t want a different life, and so she chooses to go alone. Soon, she comes to a fast-moving river where she meets Grandfather Frog. Moved by “the eagerness of [her] heart,” Grandfather Frog gifts her his ability to leap great distances and calls her Jumping Mouse. As she continues her journey, Jumping Mouse encounters Brother Buffalo and Sister Wolf, both of whom she finds distressed and crying. Displaying compassion, she gives the one her vision and the other her sense of smell, jeopardizing her own quest. Though the simple story lacks high dramatic conflict, the illustrations—hand-built, clay-sculpted characters photographed in real-life natural settings—provide visual interest and deserve praise. Younger readers will mostly enjoy the animal characters while older ones will likely engage with themes of friendship, self-sacrifice, and the importance of following one’s dreams. Some readers may find it troubling that misinformed beliefs in a singular, pan-Indian culture are reinforced by the generic subtitle as well as by the absence of the author/illustrator’s specific tribal affiliation/descent or even any note on the story’s origin.
A cute story that doesn’t reach the high places it could. (author’s note, note on art) (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)