A round cheese box bounces out of a van onto the street. The makers’ name on the box is Hermelin. From the moment the book is opened, the reader is presented with clues; clues that lie in the detail of the illustration. How appropriate when the book is about a mouse, a detective mouse, and yes, his name is Hermelin.
But first, we are introduced to Offley Street and the people who live there. Again, everything you need to know is in the detail – Dr Potter’s glasses, Parsley the cat… but nothing is complicated or difficult to see. You just have to look. Then Hermelin arrives and finds a home at No. 33 where among other items stored in the attic, there is a typewriter. Now, like Archie the cockroach, Hermelin can write notes. And he does, telling people where to find their missing belongings. However, when the truth of his identity is revealed, there is horror. Will Hermelin have to leave?
This is picture book storytelling at its best. Text and illustration perfectly integrated so that the eye moves easily across the page and the attention is held. Every page is carefully designed allowing different perspectives, creating excitement and movement through the juxtaposition of whole page and split page spreads as well as techniques adopted from graphic novel or film. Mini Grey’s familiar palette of cool colours – beige, greys, blue – are again used to good effect as we move from Hermelin’s sad attic to a happy future. Her humour shines through too, from the expression on the faces of her characters to the names on food tins, nothing is neglected. There are not enough picture books that can reach older children. This is one – and it is a delight.