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The Subway Mouse

by Barbara Reid

Nib is a mouse who lives in a subway tunnel. One day he decides to leave his nest, family, and friends to try to find the legendary “Tunnel’s End.” Some mice say it is only an “old mouse tale,” but Nib is persistent and sets off alone. He meets a mouse named Lola who teams up with him and together they walk to the end of the subway line, where the tunnel emerges from the ground.

Toronto author/illustrator Barbara Reid, best known for her GG Award-winner The Party, introduces elements of collage into her Plasticine art in this book. More than half the fun here is combing through the illustrations identifying the bits of garbage (feathers, ticket stubs, dandelion fluff) that Nib collects along the subway tracks. The art – clearly the book’s strength – ranges from dark, dirty subway tracks decorated with nuzzling baby mice to moonlit city hideouts and sunny gardens. The details of the subway system are both accurate and intriguing.

The story deserves compliments for its concept, but falls short in its execution. There isn’t enough plot development, dramatic tension, or suspense to give the story dimension. Some characters, such as Nib’s cousins and a mouse villain, depart just as suddenly as they appear. Nib pairs up with Lola and by the end they have a growing family; admittedly this isn’t surprising for mice, but it does seem hasty in the world of anthropomorphous characters. While there is dialogue to break up the narrative, the prosaic text is long and unevenly spread over the pages. The book reads like a showcase for charming pictures of mice, rather than a solid story embellished by beautiful art.