Mina the mouse is no stranger to her quirky father’s passion for bringing home discarded rubbish, odd artwork and even unusual new pets. A bit of an inventor, he’s well-meaning but inattentive, frequently declaring “Everything will be fine.” But when he ignores Mina’s concerns about his most recent pet project, which involves squirrels that look awfully feline, things quickly go from fine to not so fine. It’s up to book-smart Mina and an unexpected ally to save the day.
Matthew Forsythe’s Mina is a crafty, charming and wryly hilarious tale. Mina projects an attitude of competence and calm, while her father’s bold, geometric-patterned decor adds an eclectic energy to each page, creating a study in contrasts. Illustrations created with colored pencils, soft lines and gentle edges make this world feel lived in and tactile. Forsythe’s lively use of perspective creates a mouse’s-eye view that shrinks the reader down to Mina’s size and draws them into the story’s intimate and cozy setting, while supersized flowers and plants lend a rich vivacity to many scenes. Even the not quite menacing but slightly unsettling eyes of the so-called squirrels are tempered by earth tones and muted pastels. There’s much to see in Mina, and it’s all amusing.
Forsythe’s energetic artwork works perfectly with his unadorned narration, understated storytelling and plainspoken dialogue. As Mina’s droll observations clash with her father’s carefree assertions, Forsythe builds a tone of sophisticated, implicit humor guaranteed to have kids yelling, “THAT’S NOT A SQUIRREL!”
Readers may be tempted to look for a moral in Mina, since picture books featuring anthropomorphic animals often contain them. Indeed, the book makes a compelling case for paying heed to warnings, and readers may wonder if Mina’s father will ever learn to listen to his daughter. But Mina is so much more than a mere cautionary tale: It’s thoroughly entertaining.
Mina’s father may not be the cleverest mouse in the nest, but Mina is one of the shrewdest books on the shelf.