Monday, May 3, 2010

Books: The unexpectedly feminist Mousewife

The Mousewife was written in 1967. It's a children's book, a fraction longer than a picture book, that took me eight minutes to read. I'm counting it toward my 100+ books anyway, because it's the first book in several weeks that's driven me to actually post any thoughts.

I was startled by it, because I expected something from this period to be cute and cuddly and describe the happy mousewife piling up corn for her mousebabies, and probably worrying about a cat or a ferret or something. But I know Rumer Godden; I should have known to expect more than that.

Because that's not the plot. That is, the mousebabies and the food are there, but this mousewife longs for something more than her usual existence, where "there are so many children and crumbs and bits of fluff to think of." Her husband disapproves; he tells her, "I think about cheese. Why don't you think about cheese?" He bites her on the ear for venturing too far from the mouse hole, but she ventures all the same.

If I tell you any more, I'll have told you the whole plot - it is, after all, a picture book. It's a lovely little book, with a more ambitious, less cuddly, message than I expected.

Image: By Madhur d'Silva. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I like children's books too. I have a friend who has a children's bookstore here in Seattle. I recently re-read Harriet the Spy and loved it. Of course nothing compares to - and I mean nothing at all compares to - The Phantom Tollbooth, perhaps the most brilliant book ever written, and neatly written for young kids and young people. The double meaning messages in that book are profound. If you haven't read the Phantom Tollbooth lately, read it.


  2. Yo, Melody! Harriet the Spy was one of my favorites. :)

    I was looking at The Phantom Tollbooth at the bookstore the other day, and almost bought it. I don't think I've ever read it, and I know that it's a classic. Next time I'll pick it up.

  3. Hi, I have a book review blog "Books and Beasts" that focuses on book about animals. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have for older books that we might feature.

  4. Howdy, Alex! Almost all of my suggestions would be children's books - would that work?