Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why Are There So Many Books about Mice?

This is just a little diatribe on mice. I dislike them.
I dislike them a whole lot.
And the other day when I was blogging about Beverly Cleary I realized I didn't really mind Ralph S. Mouse. He is the infamous mouse in her book The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

It made me pause and think of how prevalent mice are in children's literature. Why is that? It's not like there are an equal amount of books with other animals such as kangaroos or sloths.

I realized that there are quite a few books with mice in them that I like, some that I absolutely love!
Here are a few:

Anatole (1957 Caldecott Honor Medal)
by Eve Titus

Anatole and the Cat
(1958 Caldecott Honor Medal)
by Eve Titus

Anatole works in the cheese factory, tastes the cheeses and leaves notes with what is needed to make the cheeses even better. Subsequently the cheese factory becomes the most popular producer of French cheese.

I don't mind Anatole, maybe it is because he is French. I try to ignore the fact that he is nibbling at the food. That helps me stay on the side of liking him.

Both books are Caldecott Honor winners with illustrations by the illustrious Paul Galdone.
The Anatole and the Cat cover isn't my favorite I decided. He looks a little to much like a real mouse in that one...but never mind - he is French.

Basil of Baker Street
by Eve Titus

Eve Titus and Paul Galdone also collaborated on a series of books of the mouse detective Basil. He is a mouse Sherlock Holmes. In fact he even lives in and works out of the cellar of Sherlock Holmes residence on Baker Street. He solves all matters of mysteries in the mice world.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
1972 Newbery Medal
by Robert C. O'Brien

For starters, this book has been published with about 10 different covers since first being published.
Most people understand different cover, same book inside - except for the majority of my library patrons. I have to convince them of this often.

Never-the-less, Mrs. Frisby is one of the most heroic loving mothers of literature. Really. She is that amazing. She's so great that I forgive her for being a mouse. Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse, learns her home will be plowed under and needs to move her family, but one of her children is ill and cannot be moved. She is desperate as she realizes without doing something her son will die. She seeks help from the rats who live under the rosebush. (Little mice are frightened of rats and this is where the love of a mother overcomes her fear). Nicodemus, one of the rats, explains how they are all escaped from a laboratory where they had been fed mind enhancing drugs - these rats are brilliant. They are also indebted to Mrs. Frisby, yet she does not enter into this knowing that. It's a great read.

The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
Oh the love I have for Despereaux...the small mouse who doesn't seem to matter, and his interactions with other characters, who also don't seem to matter - a mouse, a rat, and a peasant girl. It is a beautiful story of the depth of love. It is wonderful and one I highly recommend reading! It is a great story for reading aloud.
The Tale of Despereaux

I found a website with the entire book online - free: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux

The Rescuers
by Margery Sharp
The Rescuers was turned into a movie by Disney in the 1970's. But don't let that stop you from reading the book. The Rescuers and the subsequent book with Miss Bianca are wonderful adventures of mice who are part of the Prisoners' Aid Society of Mice. They are a benevolent society which tasks themselves with befriending human prisoners and helping assist in daring rescues.

The movie was my sister's favorite and we had the LP story that we listened to over and over again. I can still recite lengths of dialogue from the record.  It's a cute movie and this book is wonderful and a fun adventure read.

One of the added bonuses is that Garth Williams did the illustrations. That alone should propel you to pick up a copy!

Miss Bianca
by Margery Sharp
Miss Bianca continues the adventures of the rescues.

The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper
by Jean Van Leeuwen
This may be more of a challenge to get your hands on. But it's a fun, light hearted read of some mice who live inside Macy's and make friends with the stores Santa Claus. When they are convinced he has been kidnapped, they set out to rescue him.

Maybe Macy's squashed this book. Who want to think of bands of mice living inside department stores? Even though, true story, one day at Macy's at Ridgedale Mall a mouse ran under a display table. My sister pointed it out to me nonchalantly, like that wasn't going to freak me out.

Not all mouse books are good however.
My son LOVED this book and I never liked it, and never was thrilled reading it. But I did because he loved it.
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry,
and The Big Hungry Bear
by Don and Audrey Wood

Another book by the Wood's that I adore the illustrations for, but in the end has a yucky mouse scene is

The Napping House
by Don and Audrey Wood
Some of the illustrations are so pretty. Everyone naps on a gloomy rainy day, until the bed breaks and the sun comes out. My son didn't like this actually, he hated the picture where the bed broke. I didn't like that a mouse had crawled on top of the people sleeping so it didn't get much time at our house.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

This Is...Great Books on Famous Places

Miroslav Sasek was a Czech illustrator and trained architect. He was inspired to write and illustrate travel books for children. These were written in the late 1950's and 1960's and his illustrations are so evocative of the era. They realistically capture the famous sites, and interesting things to see and do around the world. They even capture the details of local dress and activities. Each book is a little journey through the destination.

Before we travel to a new city, I like to read these books. Often times they are more delightful to peruse through again when back home, just like looking through a photo album of our trip, when all the site and places have become fond memories.

Many of these books slipped into "out of print" status, but then were republished in the early 2000's along with some updated information asterisked into the book.

Let's begin with my favorite city, and Sasek's first book which he wrote after his first trip to Paris in 1958.

This is Paris

Paris Opera
Notre Dame
Arc de Triomphe

Miroslav Sasek

This is Rome


Trevi Fountain.



Miroslav Sasek
The Spanish Steps.

This is London

Piccadilly Circus at night

illustration of London Parliament from vintage "This is London" book by Miroslav Sasek
Big Ben and Parliament along the Thames

Black London Taxi

Tower Bridge... as pictured by Miroslav Sasek

London...where everyone knows how to que.

London fashion! Love it.

This Is Edinburgh
Edinburgh Scotsman illustration This is Edinburgh

Edinburgh Scotsman illustration1 This is Edinburgh

illustration of a Scottish terrier from vintage book, "This is Edinburgh" by Miroslav Sasek
Love this one - Harris Tweed and tartan!

This is Edinburgh, M Sasek, Mons Meg cannon
The big guns up at the castle. These look out over the river, Water of Leith,  where on our visit a particularly educated American asked the guide if the shoreline on the other side was America.

Victoria Street (there is a really great restaurant at the bottom that serves wonderful "stovies")

Sasek also wrote a book titled This is Britain
or originally This is Historic Britain. It covers more of the entire British Isle.
This is Britain by Miroslav Sasek

This Is Munich

Sasek, Miroslav - Sausages!

Sasek was an architect, and his books are filled with wonderful geometric patterns and drawings.

This Is New York

Miroslav Sasek - Museum
Brooklyn Bridge - This Is New York by Miroslav Sasek (1961)
Miroslav Sasek - King Pizza
Times Square.

New York Skyline
Miroslav Sasek, "This is New York" showing an American footballer
American football player.

This is San Francisco
This is Books and The Children's Department
Miroslav Sasek from This is San Francisco

Miroslav Sasek - Los ANgeles

This is Ireland
Nice...Ireland gets a bar.
This is Ireland hills This is Ireland

This is Greece
(hoping to read this one next - as in travel to Greece)

The Greek Islands.

this is texas (1967, reissued 2008) • miroslav sasek
illustration from This is Texas

A Sasek map of the world