Palmer Brown's first book in 20 years looks and sounds—and sometimes resounds—like Cheerful (1957), though the situation and its development are less inspired (remember churchmouse Cheerful singing "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John") and the illustrations accompany rather than balance the text—which in any case has less intriguing pictorial possibilities.
Hickory, Dickory, and Dock live with their parents in a farmhouse (you-guessed-it) clock—now and again tripping the farmer's wife's mousetraps for fun—until Hickory, biggest and boldest of the three, yields to the field-mice's siren song. "Each blade of grass you pull has a sweet white nibble at the base," they tell him, "each honeysuckle flower a drop of nectar." So, promising his mother to settle in the upper meadow ("because she could see it from the corner of the stairway window"), Hickory departs. "Time is going, / Never staying, / Always flowing, Ever saying: / Gone!" his father recites as the hour strikes. And it is this motif that hovers over Hickory's subsequent tender friendship with grasshopper Hop—whose own song ends, he's crushed to discover, with warning of her death when cold weather comes. He'll take her off south, Hickory determines; but even as they sing their songs "each a line in turn," Hickory shivers . . . and all unsaid is said.
The wistfulness that's Palmer Brown's—with a twist, here, of E. B. White—and some characteristically winsome details (like the pickle jar that serves as Hickory's sun parlor) give this a quiet appeal however less than memorable it may be. (Fantasy. 6-9)