Friday, August 13, 2010

The Church Mouse by Graham Oakley

Finally! Finally, they are republishing the Church Mouse series by Graham Oakley. Kane Miller, you are the most intelligent, perspicaceous publisher ever! I am a huge, huge fan of Arthur, Humphrey, Samson, and all the mice and villagers of Wortlethorpe. For a very, very, detailed review, see my review of The Church Mouse here. Of course, us true devotees of Arthur and his friends are really interested in only one does the reprint compare?

You will have to forgive my truly abysmal photographic abilities. The pictures will enlarge if you click on them, but I'm not sure that's a positive thing or not. So, the cover. The original cover here, as owned by me and complete with Half Price Books price tag I never took off, is a close look at Sampson and Arthur, best friends forever. The new cover, pictured above, shows Arthur addressing the mice and inviting them to come live in the church. Naturally, I am sorry to lose the original cover, which isn't contained in the story, but I do like the way the pattern on the new cover matches the tile pattern on the old and the new endpapers - very, very nice indeed. I was sorry to lose the black and white outline drawings decorating the title page and end page, but that's a small quibble and the colored replacements are quite nice.

We open the book and...whoo! Same illustrations, but brilliantly restored and glowing with color. The bus is a brighter red, the trees a deeper green, gorgeous! The new edition has framed all the illustrations and text and added a plain border while the old edition (which may differ from the original, a copy of which I don't own) has the text embedded in the art, as you see below, new on the left, old on the right.

To accomodate the new panels and outlay, some of the art has been resized and the type is quite a bit smaller. There are several trifling changes in the text - original, "Straight away she asked him in to meet her husband for she knew that anybody who lived in a church must be a pretty decent sort of person" new edition, "Right away she asked him in to meet her husband, for she knew anybody who lived in a church must be a pretty decent sort of mouse."

However, the textual changes are minor. The resizing of the text and illustrations isn't really a drawback - this story is too long for a normal storytime and is really intended to be pored over by a few chortling children and the passing adult as well. I like the idea of the panels, as I think it will grab children used to reading graphic novels and comics and attract them to this delightfully sarcastic story. Most of Oakley's humor comes from the juxtaposition of his incredibly detailed and humorous art with his straight-faced prose and the new layout does an excellent job of making the story easy to follow and accessible.

So, while I may lament a few minor changes, I'm very happy with this on the whole. Beautifully restored art, a fresh and snappy layout, and a beloved series is available to a new generation!

Source: Review copy provided by Kane Miller through Raab Associates.
Verdict: This won't circulate like a Fancy Nancy, but there will definitely be a firm and devoted group of supporters for this lovely new edition. Buy it for adults to rediscover and to delight a new generation of children!

ISBN: 978-1935279693; Published September 2010 by Kane Miller (reprint); Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

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