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Grill Pan Eddy

I’m not completely convinced by the title or front cover of this book, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.  Whilst your curiosity is piqued by the image, combined with the title it seems too narrow a perspective on a book which has more to it than the cover suggests.

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Grill Pan Eddy is a maverick menace of a mouse.  He can do virtually anything, and if there’s an opportunity to steal something, create mess or make something dirty, you can bet he’s there.  The whole story of Grill Pan Eddy is told in rhyme, with occasional (and amusing) poetic licence to make things work.

There once was a very daring mouse

And his name was Grill Pan Eddy.

He lived in a box of porridge oats

In a crumpled cardboard beddy.

The rhyme maintains fluidity and liveliness throughout, with a contemporary feel that works well for this particular text.  Grill Pan Eddy is a sort of punk-ish rebel, who “skied down the butter in his bovver boots / And sneezed in the snottage cheese.”  The complex references and language, as well as the edgy content, mean that this is not a book for toddlers or preschoolers, but would make a good transition book for early readers in the first couple of years at primary school who are not yet ready for chapter books but who need a more grown up tone.

Not all of Eddy’s exploits are as funny as others, but Tony Ross’s illustrations keep both the drama and humour ticking along well.  The strength and cunning of Eddy makes him an appealingly rebellious hero, expecially when he routs the cat despite his long history of mouse supremacy.

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What gives this book more depth than it might otherwise have is the fact that it is not just a story of getting rid of an annoying mouse, but about learning to enjoy his exploits and even become friends with him.  In the end the family are quite attached to him, at which point (spoilers!) he sadly dies.

I love the miserable picture of the whole family mourning at the tiny grave; I think it’s beautifully pitched and works effectively as tragi-comedy.

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Of course they don’t leave the story there however, and with great control of her material Jeanne Willis teases out the final surprise with a subtle and enticing bit of writing.

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Could it be the ghost of Eddy

Tap-tapping on the old tin pan

So soft and sweet and steady?

I like this book. It’s good fun to read, and although I still think Grill Pan Eddy is not the greatest title in the world it’s worth ignoring that and reading the book itself.  Tony Ross illustrations always have an anarchic feel to them and here that fits well with the tone of the story.

Best for slightly older children, probably from Reception upwards.

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Enormouse

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Enormouse, by Angie Morgan, tells the story of a truly enormous mouse who lives with a family of much smaller mice.  He is of course not the same as everybody else, which although at times very useful:

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also leaves him feeling uncertain and different.  Eventually his friend Tinymouse works out that Enormouse is not in fact a mouse at all – he’s a rat!  The other mice all laugh at him. Poor Enormouse is shocked and upset, but decides he must go and live with his real family, who own a dirty lair filled with rotten banana skins and flies.

Filled with remorse, the other mice set off to go and find him and bring him home, but run into trouble on the way.  The question is whether Enormouse can decide in time who his real family are.

The illustrations in this book are fun and lively, conveying real character, and the touches of realism in the photographs in the rat book and the food in the rats den are reminiscent of Lauren Child.  Angie Morgan does a good job of pulling you into the story through the appeal of the illustrated characters.  The story is told clearly and sensitively with just enough detail to lift the language but not so much that the narrative is disrupted.

If I have a criticism it’s that the story is a bit predictable.  Perhaps it may be less so to young children who are not as familiar with how these things turn out, but it is clear from the beginning how the story will progress.  That said, it is a very encouraging story about difference and about feeling accepted, with a nice message about home not necessarily being with people who look most like you.  I could see it being useful to explore the issues surrounding adoption and what makes a family.

If you are specifically looking for a book about difference and fitting in, this could be a good example to use.