The Top Shelf: ‘Town Mouse, Country Mouse’

May 17, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Although Jan Brett's Town Mouse, Country Mouse was published more than 15 years ago, its glorious illustrations, for which Brett is famous, make this young child's picture book a treasure.

Dangers lurk everywhere, adventure is in every picture: it's simply hard to tear one's eyes away.

Town Mouse, Country Mouse retells a story attributed to Aesop. Here, two couples longing for different lives decide to trade places. The city mice would like the peace, simplicity, and quiet of country living while the country mice seek the good life rich in cheese and the snug comfort of human slippers for a grand bed.

Of course, both couples learn a lesson when confronted with the unknown dangers of their new homes: cats and owls. Take your pick—neither is good company for a mouse. And so, both pairs of mice come to the predictable conclusion that home is best. They are wiser now and better satisfied with what they were once so eager to abandon.

The lessons of "look before you leap" and "the grass is always greener" are ably brought home in Brett's version of this enduring Aesop’s fable.

Still, it is Brett's illustrations that truly capture and enrich the reader. Every page in the book tells one or more parts of the story, and each is framed by articles that can be found in both houses: noodles, money, marbles, and stamps in the city home; acorns, pebbles, frogs, and weeds in the country home. The textured detail of all the creatures (in human attire), the warm or brilliant colors apropos of each setting, and the inventive play between human objects and mice, make each drawing compelling.

All of Brett's work deserves attention, but Town Mouse, Country Mouse is a very good place to start your child on the Brett adventure.

Jan Brett was born in 1949 and turned her childhood occupation of reading and drawing to good use. She studied art at the Museum School in Boston, and supplemented her education by many trips to the Museum of Fine Arts. She thoroughly researches every book so that each details brings clearly into focus the world she is writing about. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband.