Wenjun Qin (text), and Xiaoxuan Xu (illustrator), When the Mice Family Comes to Visit, Starfish Bay Publishing, July 2019, 48 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760360894
If you like slowly perusing page-by-page to find hidden treasures in the illustrations this book, by Wenjun Qin who was the first Chinese writer to be shortlisted for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, is the book for you.
Melvin’s family is hosting the annual Mice Festival and he cannot sleep for excitement. His mum and dad are busily preparing the house and soon delicious smells are wafting past Melvin. Slowly aunties, uncles and cousins roll up to Melvin’s house eager to begin celebrations. But Uncle Dom is missing and everyone is worried. After an anxious wait, Uncle Dom arrives, somewhat worse for wear after a run in with a cat. This doesn’t dampen the celebrations at all, the annual Mice Festival goes ahead with gusto.
Wenjun Qin and Xiaoxuan Xu have captured the childlike anticipation of family celebrations where children can play and run amok while parents relax their rules and indulge them. The illustrations are very detailed and convey a sense of organised chaos in the mice cellar. There are many hidden gems for young readers to discover like pumpkin cars, acorn cups and a beautiful fold out feature that depicts the vastness of the celebration. The book overall is detailed and classic in design in that the illustrations are not sparse, similar to Shirley Hughes style in Alfie’s Feet.
The plot itself flows along on an even keel and the complication of missing Uncle Dom is short lived and does not convey tension to the reader. Because of this, the story is suitable for younger readers, 4 to 6 years.
Reviewed by Katie Mineeff