King Mouse

Authored by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
Published by Walker Books

Everything about this picturebook is attractive. The size and heft of it. The dust cover images and text (I have the hardback edition). The very beautiful matt grey cover beneath, with a single, shiny, gold crown on the front, and gold lettering on the spine. The endpapers are plain dark grey, but a gold ‘ex-libris’ label is attached on the front. The title page shows us the stump of a tree. Will this be significant?

The overall design is subtle and elegant.

And then the story begins. A wordless double-page spread shows us a misty meadow or woodland area through which a shadowy figure cycles. He or she is pulling a little trailer containing crowns. Some of the crowns have tumbled off. Now, this is a very intriguing image and a great beginning to a story. Who is this person? Where are they going to, or coming from? Are these real crowns? Who are they intended for? We expect some answers to appear on the next opening but no.

Instead, we meet ‘a mouse’. Seiferling has decided to depict him as a not particularly appealing mouse-character. He discovers one of the tiny crowns. The crown fits perfectly, and so, he decides to become a king. His newfound high status impresses the other animals, and they give him due deference and work hard to be loyal subjects.

The graphite illustrations by Dena Seiferling are gorgeous. Muted and subtle they lull us into a quiet and contemplative mood. Fagan’s text is unembellished and spare – almost matter of fact.

This little fable packs quite a strong message. I’m not going to reveal what I think is the moral, but teachers and parents will have wonderful fun if they discuss this story with children.