– Short Review –
Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is one of the most beautifully constructed graphic novels I have ever had the opportunity to read. The story in itself is a wonderfully crafted delight, it’s concept and execution by David Almond is masterful as you would expect, which highlights the impact of the story. The artwork that decorates every page is a joy to behold and Dave McKean excels in bringing something uniquely different with his illustrations in Mouse Bird Snake Wolf but they still contain that Dave McKean magic that all fans are thirsty for. The words and the Illustrations work in harmony with one another and cause this book to have an endearing, breathtaking quality to it – a story that is accessible for all…it’s something very special indeed.
In my opinion Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is a precious gift to the world – a quick read but one you will never forget.
– Long Review –
David Almond’s Mouse Bird Snake Wolf centres around a world that has been created by the gods – heavily influenced by the Greek Gods of myth and legend. The Gods are happy with their creation, they’ve built the sea, sky, mountains and many other magnificent things to fill the earth…but now they are tired and require sleep. With days spent boasting about their creation and sleeping in the clouds, they leave their creation to fend for itself, parents turning a blind eye for a moments peace – but at what cost?
Harry, Sue and Little Ben are our main protagonists, who spend their days walking, climbing and exploring this world that is quite like our own – but a little bit unfinished. There are gaps that haven’t been filled yet – pieces of sky missing, pieces of the earth with nothing in them – just a void hole. Harry, Sue and Little Ben when faced with these empty spaces and realising that the Gods are taking a well earned nap or a cup of tea and cake or boasting about their accomplishments the group decide to fill these gaps. Filling this rich tapestry that Dave McKean has expertly woven with a mousy thing, a chirpy thing and a twisty legless thing – but could their imagination and creativity and the lack of supervision from the Gods end in chaos? You’ll have to read it to find out…
Almond’s words and McKean’s artwork blend brilliantly to create a book that is like no other, the words and illustrations seem to dance with one another on the page, they have a fluidity about them that is enchanting, guiding the reader deeper within the story and giving Mouse Bird Snake Wolf its phenomenal power and in my opinion makes this a truly captivating and beautiful read.
There is the fable like quality to Mouse Bird Snake Wolf which can be found in many of Almond’s works – in particular I found it interesting that the last thing that the children create given that they were free to make anything they wanted was a monstrous wolf. Something that was un-tamable, a nightmare, something that they had no control over…could this be a projection of hurt and suffering or is this what happens when people are given too much power?
This is something that is dealt with delicately by Almond and McKean but it’s something that has stuck with me – the struggle between good (Gods) and Evil (Wolf) – which in essence this evil (Wolf) was created by humans, it wasn’t intended to be, it was never part of the master plan – the Gods never intended this evil to roam the world…but now it has been let loose, can anyone put it back?
The final picture within this graphic novel for me sums up my thoughts about the meaning of the book – lurking in the darkness we see two red eyes staring up at the world the Gods created, waiting for its time to surface…again!
An astonishingly powerful graphic novel that needs to be seen to be believed.
Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is published by Walker Books and is available to purchase here.
David Almond was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1951 and grew up in the small mining town of Felling.
He was educated at the University of East Anglia and Newcastle Polytechnic. After graduating he worked as a teacher for five years before moving to a remote artists’ commune in Norfolk to concentrate on his writing. He then returned to Newcastle, where he worked as a part-time Special Needs teacher and edited the literary fiction journal Panurge. He is an experienced creative writing teacher and has worked for the Arvon Foundation and for schools, colleges and universities and is in demand as a speaker at festivals and conferences around the world.
His first book, Sleepless Nights, a collection of short stories for adults, was published in 1985 and was followed in 1997 by a second volume, A Kind of Heaven. His first children’s novel, Skellig, the story of a strange, part-human ‘creature’ who transforms the lives of two young children forever, was published to immediate acclaim in 1998. The book won both the Carnegie Medal (1998) and the Whitbread Children’s Book Award (1998). In 2007, it was shortlisted for the Carnegie of Carnegies. He was given an Arts Council Writers’ Award to work on Kit’s Wilderness (1999), a teenage novel inspired by the author’s childhood memories of disused mines. It was awarded a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Silver Award) and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal (2000) and for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
Counting Stars (2000) is a collection of children’s stories, again inspired by the author’s memories of his own childhood and family, and a selection of stories from this volume was published separately in March 2002 under the title Where Your Wings Were, as one of five World Book Day publications. A play, Wild Girl, Wild Boy, was published in March 2002, and a stage version of Skellig was published in April 2002 to coincide with the National Theatre’s production of the play. The Fire-Eaters (2003) centres on the fortunes of Bobby Burns and his encounters with a fire-eating devil called McNulty. It was awarded the Gold Medal in the Age 9-11 category at the 2003 Nestlé Smarties awards and won the 2003 Whitbread Children’s Book Award. It also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (USA). Clay (2005) was shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Children’s Book Award and the 2006 Carnegie Medal.
David Almond’s work is translated into more than 20 languages. He lives in Northumberland and was the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010. His children’s novel My Name is Mina (2010), a prequel to Skellig, was nominated for a 2012 Carnegie Medal. In 2011 his first adult novel was published – The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. This was followed by The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas (2012) a children’s book illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (2013) with illustrator Dave McKean, A Song for Ella Grey (2014) and The Tightrope Walker (2014), a novel for young adults, and The Colour of the Sun (2018).
Dave McKean is an English illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, graphic designer, filmmaker and musician. His work incorporates drawing, painting, photography, collage, found objects, digital art and sculpture. McKean’s illustrations appear in books by authors such as Neil Gaiman, David Almond, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King to name a few.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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