The Mouse and His Child (Puffin Books)

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9780140308419: The Mouse and His Child (Puffin Books)

A reissue of the beloved classic, with stunning new pictures.

Russell Hoban is probably best known and loved for his charming series of books about Frances the Badger. However, in 1967 he wrote a novel that many consider to be one of the great works of children's literature of the twentieth century, The Mouse and His Child.

The mouse and his child are wind-up toys forever joined at the hands. But when their mechanism breaks they are discarded, separated from the doll house where they lived and the toy elephant that the child calls "mother" (much to her chagrin). And so begins a suspenseful journey that is heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and ultimately joyful as the mice seek what seems at first to be impossible: independence (self-winding) and the way back home.

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Review:

Like so many exceptional children's books, Russell Hoban's The Mouse and His Child clearly wasn't intended only for kid consumption. It certainly qualifies as a fantastic story for children: the characters are entertaining and memorable, the images powerful, the pacing tight, and the message unique and lasting. But this sweet, melancholy fable about a wind-up pair of tin mice--a dancing father and son joined at the hands--explores so many different themes of hope, perseverance, transformation, and the nature of existence (while still managing to be quite funny at times) that it's the sort of book that demands to be kept around for a lifetime of rereading.

The father and son's redemptive quest to become "self-winding" takes them through all sorts of trials, from the toy store to the dump to the swamp and back again, and all along the way the pair runs afoul of Hoban's well-realized and often menacing menagerie of characters, including the slave-driver Manny Rat, the distracted thinker Muskrat, and Crow and Mrs. Crow and their Caws of Art Experimental Theatre Group. (These last provide some of the best scenes in the book, getting a surprising amount of philosophical meat out of a play called The Last Visible Dog: "What doesn't it mean! There's no end to it--it just goes on and on until it means anything and everything, depending on who you are and what your last visible dog is.")

If you're only familiar with Russell Hoban from his Frances books (Bread and Jam for Frances), this gripping, sometimes disturbing, occasionally even violent novel might come as something of a surprise. But if you've read any of Hoban's later work, like Pilgermann or The Moment Under the Moment, then you know what this sophisticated and extraordinarily graceful writer is capable of, and why The Mouse and His Child deserves praise as one of the more profound children's works ever written. (Ages 9 to adult) --Paul Hughes

About the Author:

David Small won the 2001 Caldecott Medal for So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George. His many books include The Gardener, The Friend, George Washington’s Cows, Imogene’s Antlers and Hoover’s Bride. He is also the illustrator for Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child. His most recent title is My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington D.C, written by Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

After receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale, David Small taught drawing and printmaking on the university level for 14 years. He lost his job in the 1980s due to cutbacks. This brought both a crisis and a commitment to begin working on combining his love of art and writing. Submitted to more than 20 publishers, his first book Eulalie and the Hopping Head was eventually published in 1982.

Small works with watercolor, pen and ink, and pastel. His later works have a much softer look, but they continue to include his trademark attention to small details that beg to be poured over again and again. Growing as an artist is important to Small. He feels he has not yet done his best work, and enjoys challenging himself with new ideas, styles and media.

Small lives in Mendon, Michigan, with his wife, the writer Sarah Stewart.

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