Desmond Gets Free

By Matt Meyer, illustrated by Khim Fam. Skinner House Books, 2021. 40 pages. $16/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 48.

My co-reviewer, seven-year-old Bethan, says: “The most important part of this book is if someone’s kind to you, you be kind to them back. Teamwork makes the dream work. Working together means that anything can happen.” We think this is like writing the review together. Bethan says, “I’m coming up with ideas, and I’m getting ideas from you. And we’re getting into the story.”

The story is about Desmond the mouse, who spends every day playing in a meadow, where he sleeps every night under a beautiful starry sky. One night an elephant falls asleep on Desmond’s tail. He asks a giraffe and a gazelle for help. They refuse because they want to remain neutral. Then a mouse named Nelson gathers three friends, who each bring three other friends. The elephant ignores the mice when they speak individually. Eventually, they help one another climb up to the elephant’s ear where, loudly but politely, “they yelled out together,” asking him to “roll over a few inches.” The elephant can’t ignore this loud noise and rolls over so that Desmond is freed. Then all of the mouse friends play together in the beautiful meadow.

Bethan and I quite like the pictures. The blue and white painted sky led us to look at the real sky as we sat in my garden. The illustrations are watercolors of both clarity and subtlety. The print is easily legible on beautifully designed pages. The last page of the book is devoted to a small portrait of and brief biography of Desmond Tutu, on whose parable the story is based. He said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Bethan recommended the book for readers aged four through nine. It’s a good book to share with an adult, for example, to discuss such words as neutrality. Bethan also believes it’s a good book to help her learn about friendship. And it made her laugh.

As an adult, I recommend this book to families and meetings. It’s a good book to share with a child. But make sure you have plenty of time to examine the pages and to listen to your co-reader.

Margaret Crompton (Britain Yearly Meeting) is a writer, whose writings include Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Well-Being, Pendle Hill pamphlet 419. Bethan enjoys writing poems and stories and reading. This is her first book review. 

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