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Welcoming the Unexpected

Books The Guest
written and illustrated by James Marshall
Houghton Mifflin, 1975
For ages 4-8

The author James Marshall (of George and Martha fame) is generous, often allowing his readers to stay one step ahead of his funny characters. This picture book from the mid-seventies concerns a Mona, a piano-playing moose, and an uninvited visitor. "One afternoon while Mona was practicing her scales, she had the oddest feeling," Marshall writes, and the illustration shows a tiny snail crawling up the back of a zaftig, be-skirted moose. It's an excellent joke for a four year old who's paying close attention—as well for the rest of us. After a small rebuke for scaring her, Mona welcomes the snail, Maurice, and invites him to stay. The two make fine companions, until the day Maurice disappears. The ending, though, is a happy expansion of the opening scene.

Mona the moose embraces life, even celebrating Maurice's birthday with him. Look for the book at the library and second-hand shops. A world in which a snail sports a wee party hat is a good one, indeed.


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George and Martha is so cute, and this sounds adorable.

Tanita, I definitely need to start my own James Marshall collection. When I need to re-group a little or get inspired, I go back to James Marshall, who always makes me remember why I love picture books. To me, his works are little guides to life.

Maurice the snail is also an excellent cook, "to Mona's surprise."

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