Monday, April 10, 2023 | | 0 comments

Goodness, it’s been months since I posted a book review! Life gets in the way – and it’s easy for me to prioritize anything else (especially as a schoolteacher during the school year!). I haven’t abandoned books… but I have been reading them more slowly than expected. What better way to ease into reviewing again than to pick up an excellent picture book? Matthew Forsythe’s Mina is a vibrant, funny, and inventive tale for the younger set. 


mina by matthew forsythe book cover
Mina and her father live in a hollowed-out tree stump on the edge of a pond on the edge of a forest. Nothing ever bothers Mina, until one day, her father brings home a suspicious surprise from the woods.

Should Mina trust her father—or listen to her own instincts?


Mina the mouse lives with her father, and mostly doesn’t mind that his ideas are big and not always… wise. She distracts herself with books and things turn out alright in the end, after all! But when her father brings home a squirrel – something doesn’t seem right. And that’s because the squirrel isn’t a squirrel at all! The book's marvelous detail and silly-serious adventure dovetail nicely with an important message: trust your instincts!


Mina is a funny and beautiful picture book with a twist, featuring anthropomorphic animal shenanigans and delightful details that will entrance readers of all ages. The story is simple, and the text brief – most of the plot is revealed through Forsythe’s lush art. There are several jokes throughout that rely on visuals for the punchline – antique art (stamps) on the walls of the mouse abode, the “squirrels” Mina’s dad takes in are cats – and one or two jokes that are a silly fun in their juxtaposition (stick bugs with charismatic voices who have stolen Mina’s books!).


That art I keep mentioning is uniquely lovely. The mice (and various other foregrounded characters) are fairly flat, two-dimensional figures against more meticulous and light-filled backgrounds. Fosythe’s linework changes colors and has a textured feel. Each spread looks a bit like a marriage between Alice in Wonderland and Studio Ghibli, if they were created using only pastels. The real star of the show is the subtle lighting and shadow Forsythe plays with, to create variations and depth. It is a delightful read, and a feast for the senses.


In all, Mina is a fun and funny book — perfect for springtime, with a bright color palette and outdoor adventures. It is sure to please as both a read aloud and an independent read for six- and seven-year-olds.


Recommended for: storytimes with kids ages 4 and up, fans of Kate Read and Bethann Woollvin’s picture books, and anyone who enjoys beautifully illustrated volumes with a sense of humor.

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