The gorgeous, detailed artwork in this week's picture book begins on the inside cover pages. It's the scene of a village on a starry winter night. Houses and evergreen trees are covered with snow.
Beautiful mountains can be seen in the background and white birds fly overhead. The sky is mostly clear and one star is particularly bright.
The reader sees light in the distance. It's coming from candles held by a long line of travelers -- as far as the eye can see. They're headed for a lit stable, seen in the foreground of the drawing.
A perceptive reader will find a tiny mouse at the base of a huge tree that stands on the hill overlooking the village. The little mouse is very special.
Mercer Mayer is the author and illustrator of "The Little Drummer Mouse," based on "The Little Drummer Boy" carol. It's a Nativity story.
The little mouse is the smallest member of a very large family. He's so little, in fact, that it's hard for him to keep up with the others.
So Mother makes her son a drum from an acorn. It has straps so the little mouse can carry it around. Now Mother will be able to hear the beating sounds and know where little mouse is.
It's summer now and the detailed illustrations allow the reader to get a peek at the mouse home. The house, with windows and a door, is built right into a bank at the edge of a stream. A little boat allows animals to get from one side to the other.
A castle is seen in the background and soldiers march along a road. The mice (and other forest animals) are dressed in medieval costumes.
The little mouse loves his drum. His siblings tease him about the "pur-rum/pur-rum, pur-rumpity-pum" sounds and so give him the "little drummer mouse" nickname.
The other forest animals grow tired of the drum sounds so little mouse often plays in a field late at night.
One day a raven flies into the forest with news. He says that the greatest king of all is to be born. By winter, the royal family will pass through the forest on their way to the town where the baby will be born.
The forest animals make plans to decorate the forest and find gifts for the royal baby. They work hard. The snow comes, but no royal family. The animals are upset. All of that hard work for nothing.
Then one night, when the mouse family is asleep, little drummer mouse stares out of the window. He notices a very bright star. Little mouse takes his drum and goes outside for a better look.
Little drummer mouse's life is changed forever.
This is a charming Nativity story.
Mercer Mayer started writing and illustrating children's books in 1967. He has numerous books to his credit, including the "Little Critter" books and "There's a Nightmare in My Closet."
"The Little Drummer Mouse" is published by Dial Books
For Young Readers (2006) and costs $16.99 in hardcover.
Copyright Diane Prather/ 2006. All rights reserved.