Children's Literature - Kristin Harris
Tundra Mouse accidentally ends up in grandmother's gunnysack. Back at grandmother's house on the Arctic prairie, Tundra Mouse escapes from the gunnysack and, after a bit of exploring, meets House Mouse in the silverware drawer. They become fast friends and collect many delicacies and Christmas tree decorations from the house for their nest. Suddenly, frightened by a chainsaw, they leave grandmother's house. Back on the prairie, they start their own family using the Christmas tinsel. Each painted illustration is accompanied by the traditional storyknife drawing.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3A multilayered but often confusing tale within a tale. Older sister Elena repeats a family holiday story to her little sister, Lissie, using words, sounds, and "storyknifing," described in the book's foreword as a Yup'ik Eskimo technique of drawing pictures while telling a story. Elena recounts how Tundra Mouse is accidentally picked up in Grandmother's gunnysack and taken into the house, where she meets the House Mouse, who takes her into his own nest. When a huge, sparkling spruce tree appears, the two mice spend the nights before Christmas spiriting away the tinsel and ornaments. By Christmas morning, the tree is bare. Grandmother explains the disappearing decorations as the work of the cingssiiks, tiny, magical people. When a pipe bursts and drives the mice back into the fields, they build a nest for their new family with the tinsel, which the girls discover out in the fields one day. Although this picture book celebrates family tradition and the pleasure taken in a story remembered, lapses in logic, unexplained elements, and amazing coincidences, along with Lissie's interruptions and interjections, overwhelm the narrative. The expertly rendered, colored-pencil illustrations have a scratchboard look; the brown paper that surrounds each one shows the small storyknife figures and gives the story a rustic air. A package with many appealing elements, but they don't come together to create a satisfying whole.
McDonald (see review above) and Schindler have created an uncommon blend of folkways and natural history that underscores a gracefully told, lovingly illustrated Christmas story.
In an Alaskan variant of the town mouse/country mouse tale, a wild mousereferred to as Tundra Mousefinds herself in the unfamiliar environment of a human house, where she is welcomed by the resident House Mouse. Busy arranging a nest made from Christmas tinsel stolen from the family's tree, the mice are driven back out onto the tundra by a burst water pipetheir cheek pouches still full of silver threads. Weeks later out on the tundra, the children of the household find a litter of baby mice curled up in a nest made of tinsel. These events are part of a story about "last Christmas" told by a Yup'ik girl, Elena, to her younger sister, Lissie, as they gather berries. The soft colored-pencil illustrations portray the mice and the landscapes with almost botanical precision, and also employ symbols based on traditional Yup'ik "storyknife" drawingsfigures scratched into mud or snow with the tip of a knife as the story proceeds. Younger listeners may need help with Lissie's interruptions story; older ones may want more information on tundra micespecifically, what becomes of the mice when their burrows are invaded or crushed by humans, as they are here.