In his second work for children – following the successful 2000 picture book The Girl Who Lost Her Smile – Vancouver’s Karim Alrawi plucks a story from the rich history of his native Egypt and renders it appealing to a young and diverse audience.
The Mouse Who Saved Egypt is a wonderful retelling of an ancient Middle Eastern folk tale with a straightforward plot: a prince takes the time to rescue a mouse trapped in a thorn bush; when the prince later becomes pharaoh, the mouse returns to save Egypt from attack.
Alrawi’s language is as timeless as the tale he tells. His extensive experience as a playwright is on full display; his third-person narrator recites the tale passionately but without embellishment, and when the rhyming prayer to the sun god Ra appears in the story, it is relayed with appropriate reverence and solemnity.
Illustrator Bee Willey’s generous spreads whisk readers away to the sun-bleached deserts and cool blue stones of ancient Egypt. Unlike the text, though, the illustrations have just a hint of the comic: a horse with a sheepish grin, men running amok with arms flung above their heads.
The message of the tale – faith in the reciprocity of good deeds – is presented in an elegant and functional manner. It assures little ones: do something good, and one day you’ll be rewarded for your kindness.