Once a Mouse…

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1962

Once a Mouse…

subtitle: A Fable Cut in Wood

by Marcia Brown

Simon & Schuster, 1961

30 pp.

Age: 4 +

Interests: mice, animals, folktales, India, magic, art, philosophy

Also by this author: Stone Soup, Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper

A hermit, meditating about big and little, saves a mouse from a crow. The hermit transforms the mouse into ever-larger creatures, all the better to escape predators. When the mouse becomes a proud tiger, it resents the hermit reminding him he used to be a mouse. The tiger resolves to kill the hermit, but the old man reads his mind and turns him back into a mouse.

“So the proud and handsome tiger turned back into a frightened humble, little mouse, that ran off into the forest and was never seen again. And the hermit sat thinking about big – and little…”

An ancient Indian tale about, well, big and little. Or pride and humility. Or human nature – since animal fables are never about animals at all, but about the weaknesses of humankind! This intriguing and thought-provoking story is illustrated with wonderful woodcuts. (Which may intrigue aspiring artists to learn more about the technique.)

The marvellous thing about traditional animal fables is that small children enjoy them simply as stories about animals, but – being little learning sponges – they can still take in by osmosis the deeper, more philosophical elements of the tale! (A story with a similar theme and a similar structure: Gerald McDermott’s Japanese folktale The Stone Cutter.)

NB. Despite the constantly circling predators, nobody gets eaten in this story!

(This title available at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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