Books at Bedtime: The Mouse and His Child

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Late 2011 marked the passing of writer, Russell Hoban.  I was familiar with Hoban’s childrens’ books, mostly the Frances ones, but when I read his obituary I discovered he’d written a novel for children called The Mouse and His Child (text, 1967, illustrations by David Small, 2001, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2001.)  Curious about this book, I went to the library and got it out.  The novel is about a wind-up mouse and his child bought from a shop, enjoyed for a few Christmas’ and then abandoned.  It is at the point of the toys’ abandonment that the story really begins — the toys’ must fend for themselves in a rather cruel and forbidding environment outdoors.

The Mouse and His Child  (previously reviewed by Marjorie a few years ago) is one of those novels that operates on several levels at once.  For my daughter, listening to the story as I read it aloud on our long drive westwards for our Christmas holidays, the story was essentially about a toy mouse and his child, trying to reunite with the original ‘family’ of their toy shop days and evading the devious trickery of one particularly villainous rat.  This basic plot kept my daughter engaged in listening even as other tempting devices like the IPad and the portable DVD player vied for her attention.  For my husband and I, the story was so much more.   Irresistibly existential in its peregrinations, unpredictable in its outcome, brilliant in its characterization, The Mouse and His Child was a deeply satisfying read-aloud for us.  It’s one of those books ostensibly for children, but also very much for adults.  It’s a book well worth re-reading perhaps at different stages in a child’s life.  I’d certainly be willing to revisit its pages again.   The book was made into a movie in 1977 but I’d try the novel first before going to its film version.  The Mouse and His Child is a true children’s literature classic and I highly recommend it.


Books at Bedtime: The Snow Day

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Snow, snow, snow!  This winter, snow has been heavy and thick not just in my part of Canada where this is normal, but more unusually in the U.K. (where PaperTigers contributor Marjorie lives) and northern Europe as well as coastal B.C. (where PaperTigers contributor Corinne lives.) I recently received a holiday e-greeting from a friend in France with a picture of her posed in front of a pine tree laden with snow and she remarked how beautiful Christmas was this year because of the snow.   Even though I have lived most of my life on the Canadian prairie where snow is the norm for winter, I still can’t help but anticipate its arrival in the late fall.  Snow is a truly beautiful weather phenomenon.

After doing a post on Komako Sakai a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover that she had written a book called The Snow Day (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005) which I immediately sought out at the library.  The Snow Day describes the experience of a young child on a snowy day in urban Japan when everything seemingly shuts down.  Kindergarten is canceled, the child’s father’s flight does not return that evening as scheduled.  Of course, all the child wants to do is play outside.  He finally gets his chance in the early evening just before bed, when his mother finally relents and lets the boy out into the glittering darkness.

Snow is falling thick and heavy as I write this post.  I look out my window and glance at the mottled view of continuously falling flakes.   This morning on the radio I heard announcements of school closures in rural areas because of a heavy snow warning.  Somewhere out there a child will not be boarding his or her bus and will have all day to go outside and enjoy a “snow day” like the little boy of this book!

Books at Bedtime: Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Shinnen Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu!  Or as they say in English, Happy New Years!  The earlier greeting is Japanese and I take this post as my opportunity to introduce you to a new children’s picture book out called Mad at Mommy (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010) by Japanese author Komako Sakai that was given to my daughter as a Christmas present.  Mad at Mommy features a little boy-rabbit who becomes rather upset with his Mommy.  He finds all those little inconsistencies that most mothers exhibit a tad trying like mother sleeping late on Saturdays, and watching her TV show when he wants to watch cartoons, and forgetting to wash his clothes so that he has to wear the same socks more than once.   It is so trying that he threatens to leave by saying “I’m going someplace far, far away!  GOOD-BYE.”   Off he goes, but will he return?

Sakai has done a wonderful job of illustrating this book.  She captures that intense indignant emotion some young children feel towards their mothers when Mommy is less than perfect in her parenting.   I remember the day I once was so frustrated with my mother that I wanted to run away; I must’ve been about 6 years old.   I had to ask my mom to help put my things in a handkerchief to put on the end of a stick which she obligingly did for me.  I think I got as far as the end of the block.

Mad at Mommy is a delightful picture book read for young children, and it seems somehow fitting in this Year of the Rabbit, that I have chosen this book to start off my Books at Bedtime posts for 2011.