Little Steps, 2015
hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.95
Emilia Mouse lives in the attic, as many mice do. But she is not a shy little mouse hiding in the dark in the dust or taking shelter behind the skirting board. She is a brave, bold mouse on the lookout for adventure. So when she climbs on some boxes and finds a whole orchestra of musical instruments, her eyes open in wonder and her heart fills. Especially as there is a trumpet waiting to be blown.
So dusting off the cobwebs
She held the trumpet tight
And with the deepest breath
Blew and blew with all her might
Emilia was startled;
The trumpet blast was loud,
Yet she knew the sound that she had made
Would always please a crowd.
But Emilia’s music playing also woke two very cranky cats who were very keen to see who had disturbed their sleep. And while Emilia may be adventurous she finds there is a fine line between adventure and stupid when she challenges the cats and finds herself about to be a cat snack. Her solution is ingenious and has the most amusing consequences which not only make the reader smile but also demonstrate the power of music as a universal language.
This is a delightful story that is totally unique in its concept. The author, Elizabeth Hardy, is a retired music teacher so the rhythm and rhyme of the language of the book come very naturally and really contribute to both the subject and the understanding of the story. How else would you tell a music-based story? The illustrations are by Sophie Norsa who has been nominated for a Crichton Award (for Yellow Dress Day) and, like Emilia, they are bold and brassy and a perfect fit for the text. Mem Fox always emphasises the need to read aloud to our youngsters so they can learn the rhythms of our language so this is perfect for that but it also would be excellent for sharing with those who are learning English as another language. Cats, mice and musical instruments are common to all, the story will appeal to all ages and there are lots of opportunities for discussion about the wisdom of Emilia’s actions, unlikely consequences, making friends and so forth.
I can see and hear myself sharing this story and that, to me, is the hallmark of a great picture book.