Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Literary Mice (Or "I think mice are rather nice.")

When the sweet girl was younger, we seemed to read an awful lot of books about bears and bunnies. Come to think of it, we still do (some old favorites, some new). But lately it feels like everywhere we turn, we're running into literary mice.

I've blogged about literary dragons, so it seems only fitting that I move to the opposite end of the spectrum, at least size-wise, and post a bit about some of our favorite literary rodents. There certainly are a lot of them...

My thoughts started moving in this direction several weeks ago when our family enjoyed a read-aloud of Margery Sharp's The Rescuers. This tale about three brave mice, Miss Bianca, Bernard, and Nils, was the inspiration for a Disney film of the same name which is nevertheless an entirely different story. As much as I like the Disney film, I prefer the book, especially with its wonderful pictures by Garth Williams.

My favorite literary mouse, bar none, is the incomparable Reepicheep. First introduced in Prince Caspian, the second of the Chronicles of Narnia, he absolutely steals your heart in the third volume, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (That I have only reviewed the film version of this story I've loved my whole life is something of a travesty...though it's perhaps understandable. I have a hard time reviewing books I love as deeply as VDT, books that have become part of my heart's terrain.) Maybe I can redeem my shortcoming a bit with this post from the archives about Reep as an Anglo-Saxon warrior.

Kate DiCamillo has certainly added to the prestige of literary mice with her Tale of Despereaux. And who can forget Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle (and subsequent volumes) or E.B. White's Stuart Little?

Perhaps because they're small and unobtrusive, mice often make great observers of history. I'm thinking, of course, of Amos, the inventive mouse of Ben Franklin in Robert Lawson's Ben and Me; the tiny white mouse-poet who befriends Emily Dickinson in The Mouse of Amherst; and Celeste, the mouse with a window on Audubon's world in Henry Cole's gorgeously illustrated A Nest for Celeste.

We've known so many picture book mice I know I can't possibly remember them all. One of our recent favorites is Bella and Bean, by poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich, creative pictures by Aileen Leijten. We also enjoyed Two Christmas Mice by Corrine Demas, illustrated by Stephanie Roth. One of my oldest literary mouse friends is Frederick, in Leo Lionni's book of the same name, about a mouse who stores colors for the bleak winter while all the other mice are scurrying about storing food.

When I think of books for littles, several mice come to mind. Although I'm not a huge fan of the television tie-in versions, during the preschool years we did enjoy the whimsical pictures of the original Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird. Two of my favorite illustrations of books for very young children, John Butler and Jane Dyer, both do themselves proud with mice pictures in While You Were Sleeping and Time for Bed. Mice make gentle bedtime book companions!

Rose Fyleman's poem that begins "I think mice are rather nice..." has long been a favorite in our household. Melissa Wiley features Scottish Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse in The Far Side of the Loch, her second book in the Martha series. (My review of that book is forthcoming; meanwhile here's my review of the first Martha Book, Little House in the Highlands.)

Humorous Kenn Nesbitt gives us the poem "If You Give a Mouse a Motorcycle", a title which manages to pay clever tribute both to Beverly Cleary and to the popular If You Give a Mouse... series of books by Laura Joffe Numeroff.

I know I'm forgetting numerous poems, picture books, and longer stories...in fact, I feel sure I've overlooked some obviously epic mouse. I'd edit as I think of more. (I decided to save literary rats for another post.) And if you have favorite mouse poems, stories, or books, please drop me a comment! I'll be glad to add to the ongoing list.


Elouise82 said...

I've always been a big fan of the Redwall mice, myself. Particularly Martin (of course!) and Mariel. The books so get somewhat repetitive as the series progresses, but they are still delightful.

Beth said...

Ah, the Redwall mice! Great addition. I've only read bits of the first book, but I have a teenage niece who grew up absolutely loving the series. And it seems she's not alone; they're beloved books for many!