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.

 

On Traveling Libraries and Heroic ‘Book People’: Inspiring children’s books about getting books to people in remote places and difficult circumstances

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Abigail Sawyer regularly reviews books for us here at PaperTigers, and she’s also, in her own words, “a lifelong library lover and an advocate for access to books for all”, so who better to write an article for us about “unconventional libraries” and the children’s books they have inspired. Abigail lives in San Francisco, California, USA, where her two children attend a language-immersion elementary school and are becoming bilingual in English and Mandarin: an experience that has informed her work on the blog for the film Speaking in Tongues. I know you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I have.

On Traveling Libraries and Heroic ‘Book People’: Inspiring children’s books about getting books to people in remote places and difficult circumstances

My sons and I paid our first-ever visit to a bookmobile over the summer.  For us it was a novelty.  We have shelves of books at home and live just 3 blocks from our local branch library, but the brightly colored bus had pulled up right near the playground we were visiting in another San Francisco neighborhood (whose branch library was under renovation), and it was simply too irresistible.  Inside, this library on wheels was cozy, comfortable, and loaded with more books than I would have thought possible.  I urged my boys to practice restraint and choose only one book each rather than compete to reach the limit of how many books one can take out of the San Francisco Public Library system (the answer is 50; we’ve done it at least once).

The bookmobiles provide a great service even in our densely populated city where branch libraries abound.  There are other mobile libraries, however, that take books to children who may live miles from even the nearest modern road; to children who live on remote islands, in the sparsely populated and frigid north, in temporary settlements in vast deserts, and in refugee camps.  The heroic individuals who manage these libraries on boats, burros, vans, and camels provide children and the others they serve with a window on the world and a path into their own imaginations that would otherwise be impossible.

Shortly after my own bookmobile experience, Jeanette Winter‘s Biblioburro (Beach Lane Books, 2010), a tribute to Colombian schoolteacher Luis Soriano, who delivers books to remote hillside villages across rural Colombia, arrived in my mailbox to be reviewed for Paper Tigers.  I loved this book, as I do most of Winter’s work, for its bright pictures and simple, straightforward storytelling. Another picture book, Waiting for the Bibiloburro by Monica Brown (Tricycle Press, 2011), tells the story of Soriano’s famous project from the perspective of one of the children it serves, whose life expands beyond farm chores and housework thanks to Soriano and his burros.

I was moved, of course, by Soriano’s story, which got me thinking about another favorite picture book my children found at our branch library a few years ago: That Book Woman by Heather Henson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008) is a fictionalized account of one family’s experience with the Pack Horse Library Project, a little-known United States Works Progress Administration program that ran from 1935-1943.  The Pack Horse librarians delivered books regularly to families living deep in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains.  In this inspiring story (more…)