The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse is the latest effort from the award-winning children’s writer Mac Barnett, and once again features illustrations from his frequent collaborator Jon Klassen. It tells the story of a mouse who is gobbled up one morning by a wolf. Needless to say he is terrified by this, until he encounters a duck living in the wolf’s belly. The duck was has made a comfortable home for himself, declaring to the mouse that “I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.” He and the mouse become good friends, and spend their days eating fine food, dancing and generally causing the wolf a great deal of discomfort. But one day this happy and carefree existence is threatened by an opportunistic hunter.

The story is told in sharp, humorous and direct prose that serves to bring the already surreal and absurd concept to life. The earthy, muted colours of Klassen’s illustrations – reminiscent of Eric Carle but less bold – also work beautifully, and contain a striking level of detail. The mouse’s new-found life with the duck inside the stomach of the wolf is surprisingly comfortable, and they always have fine meals, because, as the duck states, “You’d be surprised what you find inside of a wolf.” This includes but is not limited to the various furnishings such as a dining table and cloth, a bed, and a record player.

Ultimately, as well as being darkly funny, the story is about the triumph of the underdog, and the duck and the mouse are most certainly that. This is a brilliantly modern tale that children will love to hear over and over, but will prove equally entertaining for the grown ups reading it to them.

Images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse is out now on Walker Books.