Aaron Shepard has been fascinated by this story since childhood. He is the author of many folktales, including The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Maiden of Northland: A Hero Tale of Finland, and most recently, The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland. He lives in the Los Angeles area. Leonid Gore moved to the United States from his native Russia in 1991. He has illustrated many children's picture books, and lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn.
Magical events and a moral dilemma give this Finnish tale its staying power. Mikko, the younger son of a farmer, must show courage in the face of scorn in order to win a beautiful bride. Shephard's (Master Man: A Tall Tale from Nigeria) rhythmic prose follows Mikko as he chooses a bride according to his family's custom: he must cut down a tree and walk in the direction that the tree has fallen. When his tree points to the woods, Mikko finds a kindly mouse with a velvet coat "just like the gown of a princess!" Mikko's father sets up a weaving test for the two sons' prospective brides and, with the help of her mouse friends, Mikko's mouse passes. Mikko must overcome his dread that his brother, father and everyone else will think him a fool if he brings home a mouse bride, but he comes to a decision. "I think you're as sweet as any sweetheart could be. So let them laugh and think what they like." After an unexpected plot twist, the groom's resolve is rewarded when she transforms into a princess. Gore's (Sleeping Boy) distinctively angled figures, drawn in pastel on rough paper, deepen the story's folktale feel. Scandinavian sun often shines on the characters' faces while the rest of the scene stays in chilly shadow; the northern spring can almost be felt. Ages 4-8. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
K-Gr 3-The time has come for two brothers to choose their brides, and they must follow the family tradition of cutting down a tree, seeing where it points, and then walking that way until they find a sweetheart. The older sibling arranges for his tree to land in the direction of the house of the girl he wants to marry, but the younger boy's tree points to the forest. The only creature he meets there is a tiny mouse, who declares that she will make him a worthy bride. After both sweethearts pass tests of skill, she does just that, surprising all as an enchantment is broken and she is once again a human princess. Shepard does his usual capable job of retelling this old tale in clear, simple, yet effective prose. Source notes are appended, as is a reference to his Web site, where activities to extend this and other books may be found. Gore's acrylic-and-pastel artwork is a lighthearted match for this whimsical tale, but occasionally the palette lacks variety and readers are overwhelmed by the copious use of greens. On the whole, though, this is a pleasant, attractive addition to folklore shelves.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.