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A Mouse Called Julian s/c

A Mouse Called Julian s/c A Mouse Called Julian s/c A Mouse Called Julian s/c A Mouse Called Julian s/c A Mouse Called Julian s/c

A Mouse Called Julian s/c back

Joe Todd-Stanton


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"But Julian didn't know that he was being watched."

Watched by a fox!

One giant eye gazes out from the undergrowth as young Julian returns home with the blueberries he's gathered, oblivious to the fact that he's led this hungry predator right to his door!

I do relish a reprise, and that is a sentence which will be returned to much later on, with not one but two whiplash surprises, one almost immediately after the other, which will leave you and your Young Ones breathless!

From Joe Todd-Stanton, the creator of Page 45 best-sellers ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE and MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPINX, comes yet another drop-dead gorgeous graphic novel / picture book that will once again lead shining eyes right round the pages in search of exquisite, half-hidden details like the unexpected furnishings of Julian's burrow and the wider subterranean lives of his fellow underground occupants.

All of this comes furnished with the most natural of woodland and pasture colours in earthy browns, warm orange and dark or gleaming greens, printed on each page with the exceptional production values which you've come to expect from the Flying Eye imprint of Nobrow Books.

As to those underground occupants, they're a bit of a bother to self-contained Julian.

"Julian had lived on his own for as long as he could remember, and that was the way he liked it.
"All the animals above ground tried to eat him.
"And all the animals below ground got in his way."

Well, it can all grow quite cramped and crowded. Above ground, he's become a bit of an expert at dodging dogs, cats and hungry barn owls while foraging in the fields in order to return safely home.

"But Julian didn't know that he was being watched."

Oooooh! This is the first time we hear that, as Julian opens his secret trap door, gazing diligently around, but in all the wrong directions!

"That night, the fox crept up to Julian's house, and using all of his skill and cunning... smashed right through Julian's front window."

Hmmm... A bit low on the cunning front, that. And the fox hasn't really thought things through.

"The fox bared his teeth...
"And howled and growled...
"But he couldn't quite reach Julian.
"The fox was well and truly stuck!"

That's a delicious pair of pages: first there's the fox's gigantic, snapping, rapacious jaws so confidently close to victory with tiny Julian cowering below in his old leather boot-bed, the reader's eyes focussed on the peril by the spotlight shone through the window; then, opposite, comically, we're treated to the foolish fox's sudden "uh-oh! " realisation of the rashness of his action in a pan-back that reveals his hind quarters up-ended in mid-air without either purchase or dignity, our eyes again drawn there by his alarmed, backwards-looking eye.

"Pardon me, but would you be so kind as to help me out?" asked the fox.

Eyes, closed, all innocent-like.

"Help you?" yelped Julian, "You just tried to eat me!"
"Of course I didn't. I was simply popping in to see if you were OK," lied the fox.

Sounds perfectly plausible to me!

"I'm not OK at all! Your big head is in my house!" said Julian.
"Well, if you help me, I promise you will never see or my big head again," pleaded the fox.

Now, my lovelies, would you trust that fox, the traditional trickster of the animal kingdom, and specifically the one who has just blithely lied to your tiny, whiskered face...? The one who has never once before popped in to see if you were doing okay, but instead has a prior history of attempting to eat you...?

Well, you're in for a fair few surprises!

You really are!

To begin with, however, the question is rendered irrelevant, for although Julian doesn't want those great big eyes staring into his house and is even more averse to those great big, pointy teeth so close to his nose, the fox is enormous and Julian is no more than a mouse. So try as he might, Julian cannot shift the russet one's great big behind - it simply will not budge.

Then something heart-warming happens.

"When it got to dinner time, Julian couldn't bear to watch the fox's sad, hungry eyes.
"So he shared what he had and they talked and ate long into the night."

But, best beloveds, that's merely the beginning, for we've yet to encounter the reprise!

What will happen when they wake up in the morning, then go about their respective routines?

One is a hunter, the other is a gatherer. And the gatherer is always being hunted.

"But Julian didn't know that he was being watched."

Shadows and focus; darkness and light.

The richness of emotional experience which Joe Todd-Stanton offers here is not necessarily obvious. While many picture books render as much as possible in the brightest of colours and the shiniest of tones to please both parents and progeny with their immediate feel-good factor which I do not disdain, this is printed on matt paper instead with a firm, focal, candle-lit warmth on the central, pivotal, double-page spread which celebrates the generosity of sharing food... but on either side we experience an extraordinary and unexpected wealth of darkness and light both between contrasting pages and within the same panels.

This keeps us guessing as to motives, and makes one anxious when it comes to outcomes.

And this is as it should be.

Gripped, from start to finish!