Jenell and the Berry Thicket Village is a charming and delightful surprise: it is a well-written, warm-hearted chapter book disguised as a picture book for preschoolers. Carol Fenwick is a thoughtful and generous storyteller with a keen eye for the small details that breathe truth and humor into fiction.
Berry Thicket is a perfect country village whose tiny, happy inhabitants are mice. Jenell, our young heroine, lives in the human village close by. After mistakenly breaking a family heirloom, she’s sent to her room. Angered by her banishment, she feels misunderstood by her parents. To her mind, the punishment far outweighs her crime.
Suddenly, she remembers folks talking about a village of mice that live close by. People say the mice are just like humans; they wear clothes, live in cottages, and have children. Simply believing in the possibility of the village’s existence proves all the magic Jenell needs to find it, and in a flash, she is mouse size. When she saves a group of mice children from drowning in a pond their parents had forbidden them to be near, Jenell has an epiphany: parents discipline children from a place of love. The mice of Berry Thicket hail Jenell as a hero, and she returns home having learned valuable lessons about truth telling and respect.
This is a well-written chapter book that suffers from poor design. It should target an older reader with more pages and less text per page. The illustrations are not as sophisticated as the text and don’t equal it in charm. Moving forward, Fenwick should hone her visual eye to ensure her design choices enhance a delightful and loving story.