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A mole and a vole head to the big city in ‘Expedition Backyard’

The early-reader graphic novel, written by Rosemary Mosco and illustrated by Binglin Hu, finds wonder in nature

David Wilson for the Boston Globe

In “Expedition Backyard,” a graphic novel for early readers, a mole and a vole are best friends. One day, they are forced to leave their familiar and beloved rustic setting for new digs in the big city. What’s a small mammal to do? Explore, of course!

Random House Graphic, the book’s publisher, first approached writer Rosemary Mosco, some of whose previous work had dealt with urban nature; and then, from a list of potential illustrators, she chose Binglin Hu. “In my mind, the clear standout,” said Mosco.

Once Mosco created a draft of the book’s text, Hu started with character design, sketching out both Mole and Vole and all the other animals they meet, from a sparrow to a young opossum to a neighborhood cat. Ashanti Fortson, who is Hu’s wife, created the book’s color scheme, matching the characters’ locations and emotions to specific palettes.


Both Mosco and Hu said they’d grown up reading about and interacting with science and nature as children. “When I was a kid, I really liked nature,” said Hu. “I grew up where there were tons of ponds and little trails that I could walk through. And now I live in the city, and there isn’t as much of that, but it is still very much there. It’s really nice to see how much nature is there if you really look.”

“I’ve always lived in cities,” Mosco said. “I really want people to feel a connection to nature no matter where they are, to be excited about exploring the environment around them.” Hu agreed, saying, “I know it’s something kids really have an eye for and a heart for — it’s tiny little worlds that you don’t really notice on first glance.”

Mosco and Hu will read at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a virtual event hosted by Brookline Booksmith.


Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.