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: Pablo the Artist

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Pablo the ArtistWe have just returned home from a week in London, exploring the city to dropping point! One place we visited was the National Gallery, where we followed the Chinese Zodiac Trail. We knew which animals to look for from retellings of the legendary selection process, such as The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac. While looking at the paintings, we learnt a great deal about the differences and similarities in the symbolism attached to the animals in Chinese and Western cultures; and Little Brother, who is passionate about dragons, was overjoyed to discover that his birth sign, the Snake, is also known as the Little Dragon!

In the gallery shop afterwards, we found a delightful picture-book called Pablo the Artist by Satoshi Kitamura, which is an enigmatic exploration of the artistic process and where inspiration comes from – I agree with The Magic of Booksreview, where PJ Librarian says “you really aren’t sure at this point if Pablo is dreaming or if these landscape characters are actually real” – it’s one of those books which grows with each re-reading as new details are discovered and absorbed. We especially loved the glimpse of infinity provided at the end, having read The Mouse and His Child so recently, where the picture of the dog carrying a tray with a tin of dog food with the picture of the dog carrying a tray etc. etc. was such a recurrent and pivotal theme.

Not Just for Kids recommends Pablo the Artist and some other picture-books which “introduce young readers to some of the world’s masterpieces”, as does Rhyming Mom.

…And I should just add that Pablo The Artist was one of the picture books nomitated for the 2007 Sakura Awards, which Charlotte highlighted in her last post

Books at Bedtime: classic favorites old and new.

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

The Mouse and his ChildI read with interest the Here in the Bonny Glen’s post on Noel Perrin’s book A Child’s Delight about bringing back nearly-forgotten classics into a child’s reading library. The Common Room gives a slightly longer list of some of the books covered, as well as more background as to how the book came to be. Both blogs talk with great enthusiasm about books I have never heard of and now feel I must investigate for myself as much as for my children. We have made inroads into Hugh Lofting, Margery Sharp and E. Nesbit over the last couple of years – and we mean to read Mary Norton’s The Borrowers before we go and see a stage adaptation of it in January – but there are many others there to add to the “to read” list.

Revisiting favorites from my own childhood is one of the things I love about reading with my children and by reading them together, I get to share in their enthusiasm for them too – hence Dr Dolittle and others, like The Secret Garden – but there are also books that I wish I’d read and somehow never got round to – thus we have all followed the adventures of Five Children and It and its sequel The Phoenix and the Carpet in the same state of unknowing.

At present, we are reading Russel Hoban’s The Mouse and his Child, (more…)