From the knee-high perspective of a child, tiny objects and animals are comforting in their smallness. Mice seem to be just the right size for storytelling and have often been appealing as main characters of children's stories and here are two books that center around these furry little creatures and their adventures. The High Hills (Philomel Books, $12.95, ages 5-10) is one in a series of Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem. Detailed watercolor illustrations beautifully underscore the story of Wilfred, a mouse who becomes inspired by reading an adventure book.
While on a short journey to a neighboring village, Wilfred gets a chance to save the day by using the exploring skills and ``essential gear'' he gleaned from reading his explorer's tale.
The ordinary trip truly becomes a true cliff hanger when Wilfred and a certain Mr. Apple get stranded on a rocky mountain face while Wilfred searches for gold. With some help from his specially packed tools, the little mouse and his friend arrive home safely, with exciting stories to tell.
The lesson is a gentle one: persistence pays off. Wilfred's insistence on bringing along his elaborate supplies is rewarded, and even the dust he mistakes for gold turns out to be a rare lichen that the villagers need. Young readers will enjoy this lovely tale and the illustrations, which are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter's style.
If the ``High Hills'' portrays the idyllic life of country mice, The Mice of Nibbling Village (E.P. Dutton, $10.95, all ages) is an ode to their city-dwelling cousins. These mice all live in a little underground metropolis,`Nibbling Village.' Written mainly in rhyming verse, this book is really meant to be read aloud, although older children might want to read it on their own.
Margaret Greaves's delightful text is filled with characters with names like Thomas Ticklebrain, Timothy Squeak, and Dimity Moppet, and the accompanying illustrations by Jane Pinkney - incredibly intricate watercolors - are both earthy and ethereal.
Some very young readers may be slightly disquieted by the close-up depictions of each mouse, but overall, children should enjoy poring over every detail in the drawings while listening to the tales of Nibbling Village characters like Belinda Bookery, who, when stuck on a bookshelf, eats through the dictionary and, ``stuffed with words, she found that she could read the stories easily.''