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Mr. Big    by Carol Dembicki & Matt Dembicki order for
Mr. Big
by Carol Dembicki
Order:  USA  Can
Little Foot, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Stories with animals can be great allegories to show how humans interact with and understand each other. Works such as Aesop's Fables, George Orwell's Animal Farm, or Richard Adam's Watership Down are all excellent examples that utilize nature to reflect humanity or a lack thereof. So in reading Mr. Big, readers must consider the larger nature of what is being represented here. Not to do so is to lose half of the impact of the story.

Every community has a hierarchy and it is no different in the pond described here. A food chain is in place to keep the environment in check. Too much or little of one animal or plant can unintentionally cause a complete shift in the ecosystem. But in this sense nature can be cruel. Mr. Big is a giant snapping turtle who preys upon the pond's inhabitants whenever he is struck by hunger. He is their population control. The various creatures of the pond - fish, frogs, crayfish, and others - feel the looming threat that Mr. Big poses.

However, their tolerance has been diluted over the years and after a recent feast by Mr. Big, the weaker inhabitants decide it is time for a change. Aligning themselves with the devious crows, they discuss how to go about killing Mr. Big. Their plan doesn't get far before a loathsome predator stumbles upon the pond, the Asian snake-head fish. This vicious creature also wants to end Mr. Big's reign. But who will be the new king? The crows or this newcomer? And just how will they wield their power?

Though with few words, the story unfolds at a smooth and deliberate pace. The wordless panels of activities in and around the pond suggest their own soundtrack imbued with the typical sounds of nature. The art's peaceful ambience is challenged by the ensuing plot, which is where the concentration of words can be found.

Not all will be comforted by the story's theme , which suggests that people are better with the devil you know, rather than to risk upsetting the balance of nature. However, this is but one way of interpreting the story. Many - both adults and youth - will thoroughly enjoy this tale. In it, Carol and Matt Dembicki prove that animals still offer compelling material for deep looks at the human condition.

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