The Mouse and His Child - Russell Hoban

(Found at Carroll's going-out-of-business sale)
I found this and bought it on a whim; it was one of these books that has a pretty cover and is billed as a novel for adults and children alike, and the charcoal/ink illustrations (by David Small) were intriguing. The book centers on a windup mouse and child, who are purchased as a Christmas gift early on, get damaged eventually and are thrown out. I suppose it's a little like "Toy Story," except the toys interact with animals throughout most of the book and don't really come in contact with people. The book was originally published in 1967, and this is a recent publication with new illustrations.

The mouse and his child end up on a long quest, meeting up with all sorts of animals. There are recurring themes througout, and a sense that some sort of fate is directing their travels. The book is a little violent in parts and might not be appropriate for really small children (a vivid depiction of how the food chain works comes to mind), but it's a great story. The two windup mice have a mix of tenderness and toughness, necessary when they meet up with the wonderfully villainous Manny Rat.

There's a reference to Beckett's Endgame, some reflection on the differences between applied science and pure thought, and some interesting (and especially relevant now) discussions about territory and warfare. I can't say for sure what a kid would think of it, but as an adult, I loved it. It's a story that has held up over time, and I think will still be interesting and enchanting many years down the road.

Updated 12/30/10: I re-read The Mouse and His Child over Christmas weekend this year, and thoroughly enjoyed it again. It's a fantastic book and still holds up. I wrote about it for GeekDad.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 26, 2003