In this appealing yet puzzling tale, a dog, cat, and mouse share a sun-bleached cabin on a pebbly coast. "The dog tended to the garden" by digging holes. "The cat took care of the housework," shaking out a tablecloth. "The mouse looked after the cooking," preparing cheese fondue every day. One night a shifty fox arrives, toting a briefcase labeled "Winds of Change." Taking each animal aside, he questions the others' housekeeping and offers dubious gifts—a dog collar, tins of fish, and cookbooks—unsettling the peaceable group. Grey (Ginger Bear) creates conflict among bosom friends who might be perceived as natural enemies, picturing the drama in seaside shades of blue-gray and sandy gold. Skewed angles and chockablock comics panels amplify the suspense, yet nothing violent comes to pass; the fox vanishes, and the three reconcile. The conclusion brings relief and nagging questions: what motivates the fox to poison their relationship? Is this a lesson in family unity? Besides adding herbs and sardines to their diets, the characters remain essentially the same, and the utopian stasis is not wholly satisfying. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
"Grey, one of the more inventive picture-book creators working these days , offers a beguiling little parable."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2011:
"Grey’s wonderfully expressive, richly textured mixed-media collages leap and bound with funny details (like the "All-Purpose Flakes" box in the kitchen, perfect for both baking and bathing). Vivacious design elements such as comic-strip–like panels for action sequences and cut strips of type for the dialogue in the climactic fight add further fun. The clear, clever text—rendered in a large font—is as fresh and invigorating as the rest."
A cat, dog and mouse live peacefully in their seaside shack—each doing his or her part to keep the household humming: Cat cleans (between naps), Mouse cooks dinner (cheese fondue only) and Dog busily buries bones. One day, a fox with a briefcase labeled "Winds of Change Trading Company Ltd." washes ashore on a flower-patterned air mattress, dons his stripey gangster suit and barges into this salty little Eden. With meaningful whispers and strategic gifts, the out-of-the-blue Stranger sows the seeds of discontent. Dog suddenly notices Cat is, perhaps, no Martha Stewart, Cat questions Dog's somewhat limited garden... and even enthusiasm for Mouse's daily fondue congeals. A heated fight erupts at dinner! Heartsick Mouse runs away, but, happily, his dramatic near-drowning reunites the torn-apart trio. Still, the winds of change have blown in and enriched their once-complacent lives, infusing this pithy British import with an unusual and thought-provoking message. Grey's wonderfully expressive, richly textured mixed-media collages leap and bound with funny details (like the "All-Purpose Flakes" box in the kitchen, perfect for both baking and bathing). Vivacious design elements such as comic-strip–like panels for action sequences and cut strips of type for the dialogue in the climactic fight add further fun. The clear, clever text—rendered in a large font—is as fresh and invigorating as the rest. (Picture book. 5-8)
PreS-Gr 2—Three friends—a white dog, a one-eyed black cat, and a gray mouse—live together companionably until a stranger from Winds of Change Trading Company plants seeds of discontent. The friends have always been satisfied by the equal division of labor. Dog tends the garden (a bone garden); Cat does the housework (often taking a catnap); Mouse cooks (always cheese fondue). When the Stranger points out the weaknesses of their arrangement, the friendship is tested. The disagreement leads to near disaster, but the animals' bond prevails. In fact, their relationship is strengthened through the conflict. The narrative and art work together seamlessly. At times the text becomes part of the illustrations. The watercolor and collage artwork gives distinct personalities to the characters and provides subtle, clever details. An entertaining tale (and a great lesson in friendship) that will not grow old.—Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH