|Image from BarnesandNoble.com|
Based on the folktale about the blind men and the elephant, this story features seven colorful, but blind, mice who are puzzled by the arrival of an unfamiliar “Something” by their pond one day. On the first day, Red Mouse reports that the Something is a pillar, but the other mice don’t believe him. So on each of the following days, a different mouse explores a different part of the Something and each reports completely different findings! Purple Mouse is sure it’s a cliff, but Blue Mouse thinks it’s nothing but a rope. Finally, White Mouse explores the Something from one side to the other, up and down, over and under and declares that the Something is in fact an elephant! Young finishes with a mouse moral:
“Knowing in part may make a fine tale,
But wisdom comes from seeing the world.”
The text of this Caldecott Honor book is a fine balance between narration and dialogue. Young’s text is sparse; each word as carefully chosen and placed as the delicate paper collage pieces of the illustrations. The illustrations feature textured paper in variegated colors against a glossy black background to create stunning compositions.
Use this book as part of a touch or 5 senses storytime. Try pairing it with books like, The Black Book of Colors or A Porcupine Named Fluffy. You can also use this for a color themed storytime (try pairing it with Green or I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More) or for a storytime about elephants (try books like Emma Kate or The Thingamabob).
After you read the book, talk about the days of the week and how a different mouse went out on each day. This can naturally segue into a discussion on ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.). You can give the kids a story sheet and have them match the color to the day the second or third time you read the book. I also really like this visual aid/activity from the Daisyeyes Handmade blog.
Have all the children close their eyes and then pass around a variety of objects. Can they guess without opening their eyes? You could also play an easy version of 20 questions. Give the kids seven clues, one at a time, that reveal an object or animal.
My first introduction to Young’s work was reading Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China when I was a child, a book that's ingrained in my memory. Check out Young’s website for a list of titles that he has authored and/or illustrated.