Preschool to Grade 1 (Owl Kids Books, 2011)
When you’ve created a series as well-loved and successful as the Mole Sisters, it makes sense to keep doing what you’re doing. The Vole Brothers is related to Roslyn Schwartz’s earlier series in many ways but it also has much to offer that is fresh and unique.
From the front cover, the brothers are mischievous and fun. One is pulling a funny face, while the other is making rabbit ears over his brother’s head. These are two relatable, child-like voles, full of emotions, appetites and innocent assumptions. Young readers will giggle when they conclude that, if a cat appears to smell like pepperoni pizza, a cat would make a terrific dinner for a voracious vole.
Not only will young readers be excited to read a book that looks like the graphic novels of big kids, but Schwartz’s comic-book style is an interesting approach to promoting early literacy skills. The emerging reader surmises what the character is thinking and determines for herself what the bubble above his head might actually “say.”
The language is appropriately simple, aimed at children aged 2-5, but the story has multiple layers that will engage much older readers as well. The full meaning is conveyed through Schwartz’s expressive artwork, particularly the gestures of the cat, which invites the audience to “read between the lines,” making that connection between the words on the page and what is happening in the story.
Above all, Schwartz has created a book that is just so much fun!
Review originally published in Canadian Children’s Book News, Fall 2011