Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The creator of the Redwall series turns his hand to verse for this rambling illustrated story featuring the animals of Redwall Abbey: "Lots of woodland creatures/ and all the Abbeymice/ were planning in secret, a marvelous feast/ for their abbot. Now wasn't that nice!" Their only problem is to hide the preparationsfortunately if enigmatically, the old Abbot proposes a "Quest for a Bobbatan Weary Nod" and, along with a few friends, absents himself with a walk in the woods. Meanwhile at the Abbey, as text and art show in equally amusing fashion, the hedgehogs decant barrels of fruit juice, the mice and hares bake and ice cakes, otters prepare hot root soup, and the molechild Bungo raids the food. When the questers return, the Abbot feigns suitable surprise, but the anagram contained in his odd quest reveals that he knew all along ("Abbot's Banquet, Ready Now"). Denise (The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship) creates an animated collection of cozily rustic critters, Beatrix Potter-like in their mix of animal appearance and human habits. But in spite of the thoroughly jovial tone, the book, like the Abbot's quest, is long and excursive, returning to its beginning instead of advancing, and the verse is occasionally clumsy. Ages 4-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
This first illustrated storybook of the "Redwall" series tells of the surprise feast that the creatures of Redwall are preparing in their dear Abbot's honor. The warm illustrations capture the personality of the woodland creatures-abbey mice and hares, otters and moles-that inhabit Redwall. The illustrations and likeable characters in the story will appeal to a young audience. However, the rather large words and dialect of the characters of the story told in verse will make this a better read-aloud to children by adults.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-Jacques's "Redwall" books have proven immensely popular with a wide range of children. In this book, told in the form of a ballad, the author tries to expand the audience by giving his universe a picture-book treatment. The story is about the efforts of all the mice of Redwall Abbey to prepare a surprise feast for their abbot. To get him out of the way while preparations are made, a quest is invented. The remainder of the tale recounts the often-chaotic arrangements and the abbot's rather uneventful walk. The ending, in which it is revealed through a cipher that the abbot knew of their plans all along, is rather anticlimactic. The text is marred occasionally by awkward rhymes and trite or cute phrases. Where Jacques succeeds is in his marvelous evocation of atmosphere and place. Denise's illustrations lovingly bring the celebration and the animal inhabitants of the abbey to life. The small creatures' characters can be seen in their expressions. For this visual realization of Jacques's fictional world alone, the book is worth a look.-Tim Wadham, Dallas Public Library, TX
Anyone familiar with Jacques's Redwall series will have fond memories of the mouthwatering feasts prepared for every celebration: damson pie with meadowcream, hazelnut tart, and beetroot soup. Here, told with a rhyming text and for the first time in a full-color picture-book format, Jacques chronicles the hustle and bustle of preparations for a surprise feast in honor of the old abbot. Fat Friar Hugo directs the show, cellarmaster Ambrose Spike and his hedgehog crew are in charge of beverages, and Bungo the molechild is everywhere stealing tastes: "Dodging 'round ovens,/or hiding 'neath a table,/nothing edible is safe from one so small and able." Meanwhile the abbot takes a loyal following on a quest that only looks crazy, but proves masterful.
The long, long verse is spirited and humorous, and Denise's affectionate, detailed watercolors bring all the action to life. The mentions of favorite characters seem intended for readers of the novels, but the book's real use may be to introduce a new generation to the Redwall family.