The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

I’m certainly not the first to say this, but Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are consistently putting out some of the most compelling picture books on the market.

They’ve collaborated several times before, including on the extraordinary Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and a personal favorite here at Roarbots HQ: Triangle. Their books are deceptively simple but offer so much to chew on.

I even talked to Mac Barnett last year about how he pushes the boundaries of picture books and children’s literature in subtle (yet revolutionary) ways. And their newest collaboration – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse – is no different.

The story is about a mouse who gets swallowed by a wolf. Inside the wolf’s belly, the mouse meets a duck, who is surprisingly content about living in a wolf’s stomach. When the wolf is threatened by a hunter, the mouse and duck take drastic measures to protect their new home.

As I said, deceptively simple.

I live well! I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.

If read on the surface level, it’s a fun, quirky story that’s oozing with charm and humor. Kids will absolutely laugh along at the ludicrous situation the mouse and duck find themselves in. And they’ll likely think the “twist ending” is hilariously unexpected.

Dig a little deeper, though, and there’s a lot more here. Aside from the more obvious themes of friendship and cooperation, Barnett and Klassen surreptitiously nip at the edges of loneliness, anxiety, grief, and inequity.

When I was outside, I was afraid every day wolves would swallow me up. In here, that’s no worry.

Read this book. Love this book. Embrace it and discuss it with your kids. Barnett and Klassen do it again.

(Disclosure: Candlewick provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.

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