Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – ‘Mouse Bird Snake Wolf’ by David Almond

Rebecca Davies

9781406322897 231x300 Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David AlmondWhat’s the story?

Long ago and far away, in a world rather like this one, three children decide to fill in the gaps left in reality by their lazy gods, who do nothing but lounge around on their clouds all day, sipping tea and eating cake. The youngest child creates a mouse, the second a bird. But as their powers and ambitions grow, their creations become increasingly dangerous. Will they dare to go against the gods and create a wolf? And what will happen if they do?

Who’s it for?

Readers aged six and over and parents looking for something with a bit of substance to read at bedtime.

Why should I read it?

Despite its deceptively simple title and abundant illustrations, Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is no run-of-the-mill early reader book. Hidden among its weird and wonderful pages – illustrated by Dave McKean, who also drew the pictures for Neil Gaiman’s Coraline – is a complex tale about the inevitability of evil and the corruptive nature of power.

David Almond skilfully interweaves this dark material with brilliant bursts of imagination and humorous interludes involving the slovenly, self-satisfied gods. It’s the sort of book that leaves you feeling inexplicably altered after you’ve finished reading it, as if you’ve momentarily crossed paths with some forbidden world. Dave McKean’s extraordinary illustrations seem to draw on everything from German fairy tales and tribal art to photo collages and even The Ren & Stimpy Show. Their uncanniness only adds to the book’s lingering air of mystery.

Best character: Little Ben, for being the only character in the book with any common sense.

Best line: There came a sound from deep in themselves, and from the gaps and spaces that they’d left below: astonishing snarling, extraordinary howling.

If I like this, what other books might I like?

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Find out more about the Independent’s Children’s Book Blog here

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  • Cid and Mo

    David’s books offer something different for readers, especially boys. All too often boys are directed away from writing or reading about scary or strange topics – but that’s what some of them enjoy! Boys’ writing is often full of Zombies! It’s good for them to be able to experience scary moments from the safety of their bedrooms.

  • Rebecca Davies

    Very true. Though of course there are plenty of girls who love scary books too, at least if I was anything to go by!

  • petepassword

    How boring, carry on the lie about wolves, scare another generation with a completely false view. Usual homocentric nonsense – gods??? In the 21st century? Good grief.

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