Ryan T. Higgins is the author and illustrator of “Be Quiet!” a picture book that features the three mice from his previous clever picture book, “Hotel Bruce.” One of the mice, Rupert, envisions the creation of a beautiful, wordless book filled with lovely images.
His buddies, Thistle and Nibbs, two other mice, don’t quite understand the concept. In fact, there is a lot they don’t understand. And as the book fills up with their humorous chatter, Rupert gets more and more angry and frustrated.
There are many plays on words, and illustrations that refer to Higgins’ previous book, “Mother Bruce,” in addition to fine art (Van Gogh’s self-portrait) and poetry. The two not-very-literate mice definitely do not understand the meaning of “onomatopoeia” and turn it into something that is definitely giggle-worthy. And a book that has both giggles and frustration virtually jumping off its pages is a paradoxical sight to behold. And laugh at.
Children, like two of the mice, will not understand some of the humor. That’s okay. The adults reading the book will understand and might just use some of the topics to discuss with the children.
It’s also about not listening. Great discussion can be had from talking about empathy and how Rupert must be feeling when none of his friends will listen and understand what he wants. How would the students feel? And at the end, when Rupert totally loses control, and the roles completely reverse, the reader can ask the kids — “What just happened?”
The artwork is noteworthy. The colors are unnaturally bright, the mice drawn in perfect detail — perfectly cartoonish. Rupert sports a pair of black spectacles in addition to a mustache. The facial expressions on the mice will make the kids laugh.
It’s all, not surprisingly, reminiscent of the illustrations in both “Mother Bruce” and “Hotel Bruce.” Even the endpapers start and end the story with beautiful work. It’s actually a great touch that Higgins’ picture books have a certain style and are recognizable as his work.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover picture book provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.