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The Mouse Bride
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by Joy Cowley (New Zealand)
Illustrated by David Christiana

From the first pages of this tale, Joy Cowley invites the reader in:  "Come here, and I will tell you a story / about a mouse who hated being a mouse."

 

Cowley's tale wittily unfolds the story of Mouse, who perceives herself to be "small and weak." Mouse believes that by marrying someone strong, her future children will be strong. Seeking a strong husband, Mouse visits sun, cloud, wind, and house. Each deems the next entity to be stronger than itself.

 

At the house, Mouse comes full circle. House tells Mouse about a creature "who nibbles and gnaws at [its] timbers. . . . If he keeps on nibbling and gnawing, I shall collapse in a heap of dust."

 

Like the beginning, the ending also addresses the reader directly, affirming the reader's wisdom:  "And yes, you have guessed it: / Out from the depths of the cellar / came another little mouse." It is a mouse who has the extraordinary strength to gnaw a house into dust! Abashed, Mouse realizes that she has found her spouse – and that mice are not the weak creatures she thought.

 

David Christiana's paintings wonderfully support Mouse's perception of weakness (scurrying away from a cat) and search for a husband. The golden sun looks huge compared to mouse, yet each succeeding entity is even bigger. Christiana portrays the warmth of the sun, the power of storm clouds, and the invisible, mighty, oftentimes gentle Wind. House looms upward off the page, giving us a mouse-eye perspective.

 

Although reviewer JoAnn Rees[1] decried the tale, saying that the mouse was too small to make the book an effective read-aloud, I disagree. Christiana's portrayal emphasizes the mouse's perceived weakness. If you are worried about children being able to see the mouse during story time – well, get up off the chair and walk around! Point out how small the mouse is and how big are Sun, Cloud, Wind and House. Children will identify with this sense of being small. The Mouse Bride is a well-written, wonderfully executed book that begs to be read aloud.

 

Cowley, Joy. 1995. The mouse bride. Illus. by David Christiana. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0-590-47503-7.

 



[1] Rees, JoAnn. 1995. Review of The Mouse Bride by Joy Cowley. School Library Journal 95:41.

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