Mr. Mole Moves In – written and illustrated by Lesley-Anne Green
Tundra Books, 2021
In the first book of this imaginative series, Fox and Raccoon, readers met the handcrafted felt creatures who live in Juniper Hollow, a small community where animals help each other through everyday problems. Here, the main issue is how to help a new friend who definitely needs glasses, without causing him embarrassment or hurt feelings. Mr. Mole is eager to get acquainted with the residents of Juniper Hollow and the feeling is mutual. But when he hands out erasers instead of candy to bunnies in the General Store, and mistakes the watermelon which Giraffe is holding for a baby, you know it’s time for an intervention.
Take a look at the General Store! There are glass jars full of colorful items, clay pottery, and balls of yarn. There are the proverbial “cans of worms,” which, in this case, Mr. Mole mistakenly purchases for his dinner. The very nature of these illustrations is reflected in the images, plot, and carefully chosen words. Juniper Hollow is a gentle environment, without raucous adventures. The animals seem both physically real and emotionally believable, wearing beautiful hand knit sweaters and with subtle expressions on their felt faces. Reading this book with a child can be a slow and thoughtful event, taking the time to share the possibilities on every page.
When Rabbit first meets Mr. Mole in the store, she is sensitive to his problem, especially since one of her children who received the inedible erasers is nearsighted. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you, or someone you know, has one, and the practical Juniper Hollow residents clearly understand this. The last thing they want to do is upset their neighbor, especially since his inability to distinguish fishing bait from pasta renders him vulnerable. “The critters all agreed and put their heads together to come up with something.” Readers watch the solution unfold from Mr. Mole’s perspective, as he peers out the window of his house, obviously put off by the sight of a crowd: “As they approached, they could see Mr. Mole peeking out from behind the curtains. They were surprised to find that he looked a little scared.” Of course he does. While the critters seem friendly, he hardly knows them. What’s going on?
To set him at ease, the animals bring a welcome basket, because this is a town where considerate behavior is part of their charter. The myopic bunny approaches Mr. Mole with a pair of much-needed glasses, and he is overwhelmingly relieved. It seems that he lost his in the move. The ending raises a few questions to discuss with children. If he lost his glasses, he clearly knew that he needed them. His surprise at the contents of the basket, which include some of the things which he had visually confused with other objects, also suggests that Mr. Mole is a bit quirky. He is the only resident wearing a bow tie, so maybe he’s a professor, better at decoding books than animal behavior. But one thing is for sure, acceptance is essential to getting along with others; Mr. Mole Moves In makes this as clear as a view of the world when you put on a new pair of glasses.