Poor Mouse. She lives with Cat, and needless to say, there are . . . problems. As Andrew Prahin’s Ship in a Bottle opens, Cat stalks Mouse in a series of very funny vignettes: “Mouse wanted to eat gingersnaps. Cat wanted to eat Mouse. Mouse wanted to enjoy the ship in a bottle. Cat wanted to eat Mouse.” In each image, Cat is always around the corner, eyes wide, a consummate predator.
One day, Mouse takes her living situation into her own hands. She slips into the ship in a bottle and blows Cat a raspberry. Cat angrily shoves the bottle out the window and into the water below, and suddenly Mouse is free. So begins Mouse’s journey over land and water to find a safer home. Yet her “exceptionally pleasant” and peaceful adventure soon becomes distressful, thanks to selfish, cookie-obsessed rabbits, hungry seagulls and a huge, scary storm. Fortunately for Mouse, she eventually finds some kind new neighbors.
Prahin masters the story’s execution on every level. He knows when to make the text short and clipped with perfectly dry comic pacing (“Cat wanted to lie in the sun. And eat Mouse.”) and when it should flow with rich imagery: “Near dawn, Mouse looked out upon an expanse of quiet trees and grass nestled among the towering buildings.” Prahin’s palette practically sparkles with warm, lemony yellows and carnation pinks juxtaposed against the sage shades of Mouse’s fur and the surface of the river. The dappled light on the water at the start of Mouse’s journey is particularly striking. All of the creatures’ body language and droll facial expressions (especially single-minded Cat) are entertainingly spot-on.
Mouse’s persistence pays off in more ways than one, making this a satisfying story for anyone who, like Mouse, has “dreamed of a better life.”