From the Publisher
A dark fable about the power of thought. . . . Delessert's willingness to enter the recesses of Tobias's mind . . . shows how seriously he takes children.
Not trusting strangers is always worth discussing, and Delessert's art is always worth a look.
Delessert (Humpty Dumpty), whose bulbous-snouted, glittery-eyed creatures are instantly recognizable, returns with a dark fable about the power of thought. Tobias, a chubby mole with glassy orange eyes, lives a quiet life in a network of tunnels, eating insects and collecting beautiful little stones. One day another mole admires Tobias's collection, but warns him that a band of robbers has been seen in the area: "They especially love shiny pebbles." A portrait of mental disintegration unfolds as Tobias moves his tiny treasures frantically around his tunnels in an attempt to hide them. "He heard soft steps in the dark, and a voice whispered, 'Tobias, Tobias, watch out.' " Realizing at last that there's no way he can keep his treasure safe, he falls into an exhausted sleep. Delessert paints Tobias's head encircled with scarlet tentacles of terror and exhaustion. A tale like this might end with Tobias realizing his silly visions were all a dream; however, Delessert depicts Tobias awakening to find his collection gone and a nasty note from the neighbor—"Thanks for the treasure. Keep the last pebble. Enjoy!" Tobias's cheerful resolution not to let himself be controlled by fright again may not dispel for younger readers the darkness of the hero's earlier fears. Yet Delessert's willingness to enter the recesses of Tobias's mind—a world mirrored in the tortuous tunnels he digs—shows how seriously he takes children. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
While he is looking for worms and insects to eat, Tobias the Mole is busy digging tunnels and rooms, and collecting special polished stones. When he shows these treasures to another mole, the visitor warns him that prowling robbers may be seeking shiny pebbles like his. Filled with fear, Tobias begins to hide his pebbles in different tunnels, but then worries about them all and returns them to their original place. He seems to hear someone following him, watching him. Finally exhausted, he falls asleep. When he awakens, he finds that a visitor has left him a thank-you note and one stone. He realizes that he has been tricked and robbed. Next time he will be wiser as he collects. The moral of this contemporary fable is visualized dramatically with images that mainly fill the pages with sculpturesque representations of moles, softly textured and shaped as if by air brush, with staring black pupils and sharp nails. The tunnels and black backgrounds really show off Tobias's collection and his imagined attackers. Small vignettes add action to the on-going game of hide and seek.
Veteran Delessert's latest fable features a mole who loses a treasure thanks to a trickster able to play on his fears. Having painstakingly gathered a trove of pretty rocks, Tobias is eager to show it off to a visiting mole. When that visitor warns him that robbers are coming, Tobias frantically and repeatedly disperses the pebbles into hiding places, then brings them back together so that he can keep watch. Eventually he falls into exhausted sleep, and when he wakes he finds, along with a mocking note, all but one stone gone. In keeping with his concept's complexity, Delessert takes an expressionistic angle on the illustrations, depicting a misshapen Tobias with a smiling, birdlike face, giving him marble-like stones with lustrous patterns and adding ominous imagined figures and swirls of color as evocations of panic and worry. Considering Tobias's emotional investment in his possessions, his instant recovery from the theft isn't as credible as his earlier indecisiveness, but the (apparent) point about not trusting strangers is always worth discussing, and Delessert's art is always worth a look. (Picture book. 6-8)