Picture books are strewn with plucky rodents, none more so than The Spectacular City‘s Mouse. Mouse lives with his best friend Bear in the woods, in a little house in the trunk of a tree. From their window, they can see the glimmer of the city lights, and one evening, Mouse can resist their twinkly allure no longer. They must go to the city and ‘live in that sparkle and glitter and shine!’ And in a way that will resonate exquisitely with their target audience, they have to go right now. And so off they set…
Dazzled by all the shimmer, they fall in with a glamorous alleycat who offers to be their tour guide. Mouse is insatiable. ‘More light! More light!’ he squeaks. Which is how he winds up at The Glitz, a restaurant atop a skyscraper with a large sign on the door showing that not all are welcome. ‘No Bears’ is its strict admission policy.
Being a good-natured sweetheart, Bear doesn’t mind, though he does remind House as he heads on in with Cat, ‘Remember – just call, and I’ll come’.
It’s not long before Mouse is shouting Bear’s name across the rooftops with increasing panic.
Ex-publisher Teresa Heapy’s zesty adventure glints with luminous language, and its finale – featuring a paper aeroplane and some poetic stargazing – is very charming. But it’s David Litchfield’s illustrations that bring it to life: characterful, colourful, and with just the right combination of appeal and menace.
The Spectacular City is a touching cautionary tale of friendship but it’s also about knowing the value of what you already have, and – perhaps more tellingly – about mistrusting those bright lights and returning to a simpler, rural way of life.
The Spectacular City by Teresa Heapy and David Litchfield is published by Red Fox at £6.99.