Mo and Beau 2
Mo and Beau 2
Mo wanted to be scary. Very, very scary. So he asked Beau to teach him how.
“All the animals are scared of you. I want to scare them too!” said Mo.
“You can’t do that. You are a little mouse, Mo,” roared Beau.
This gentle picture book tells the story of two friends who are very different. Though he knows it’s a lost cause, Beau the bear tries to teach Mo the mouse how to be scary. He teaches Mo how he should furrow his eyebrows, how his ears should look, and how he should roar (loudly). But Mo is a tiny mouse (he just doesn’t have that kind of weight to throw around!), and he can only squeak and look meek. Beau, tired and frustrated, goes to have a rest in his cave, and Mo practices what he’s learned. When Beau is in his cave, Mo surprises him with his rehearsed roar one more time and actually frightens Beau. Beau squeaks “yikes!” and tells Mo, “Even big bears like me can be scared. And little mice like you can be scary.” Mo smiles, pleased with his efforts. Then he yawns because “being scary was hard work”, and he slumps down, exhausted.
Vanya Nastanlieva uses her talents as both author and illustrator to great effect in tandem here. This short tale of two companions is sweet and simple. Not much happens, and it doesn’t need to. The text is playful (changing in colour, size, emphasis, and type face), and, if you’ve read the first Mo and Beau, you’ll know that the illustrations are sparse but effective. In this sequel, too, Beau is rendered in a dark, rough, sketchy style, never once fitting wholly onto the page in his bulk, with a large foot filling one side of the page here, his snout filling another page there. The reader gets the sense that we are seeing him (and the world) from Mo’s perspective. Looking up at a creature of such height and breadth, a mouse’s eyes simply wouldn’t be able to take all of him in at once. Stylistically, the character of Mo is more neatly defined and in focus, with lightly scruffy white fur and soft pink nose, paws and tail. It is almost as though the two do not inhabit the same plane in their little universe – dissimilar as they are – though often they are physically interacting, with Mo resting his paws on Beau’s gigantic foot or sitting calmly atop his head. Nastanlieva does a wonderful job of portraying emotion in the characters’ body language and facial expressions.
Throughout Mo and Beau 2, the background behind the characters is a blank white, with the exception of a couple of darker pages that take place in the night time, a moody deep blue painting the scene. Here, Beau lies in his cave under a grassy hill – one of the only setting details in the book apart from vague snow flakes, one boulder, and – beneath their feet – sporadic, vaguely suggested earth.
The animals are familiar and tender with each other. Even when Beau is showing Mo how to roar, Mo isn’t scared. The two of them have a close relationship, and, even though Beau is exasperated by Mo’s fruitless attempts at being scary, he tries his best to be a good teacher. At the end of the story, you get the sense that this is just another day in their friendship and that there will be many more amusing adventures to come.
The inside of both the front and back covers of the book display a beautiful pattern of rough character sketches of Beau scratching, roaring, sleeping, etc.
I love the shape of the book (square at 8” x 8”), perhaps because it feels cozy, a smaller shape for smaller hands to help hold in an intimate read-aloud setting.
At the head of the title, the word “Scared” is scratched out to be replaced by the word “Scary”, to read: “Scared Scary! Mo and Beau 2”.
Andrea Zorzi is a librarian working for Toronto Public Library in Ontario, Canada.