The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban

The Mouse and His ChildI have developed an interest in young adult and children’s stories. I find the freedom and creativity the genre affords interesting and the reading relaxing.  So when I saw a hardback copy of Russell Hoban‘s The Mouse and His Child for sale at the local library for a dollar I grabbed it.

I was unfamiliar with the story despite its being labeled as a children’s classic.  I was vaguely aware of the Francis the Badger stories, but not any of Hoban’s other works.  But I figured it would be an interesting read for me now and good for reading to my kids as they get older. Plus, it was a dollar!

First published in 1967, the story follows a windup toy mouse and his child – joined at the hands – who finds themselves out in the world after their useful lives as toys ends.  They are forced to flee from the Manny the Rat who seeks to use them in his efforts to take control over the dump.  This is the impetus for a grand and harrowing adventure as they seek to not only survive but to achieve the child mouse’s dream of having a family, to establish their own “territory” and becoming “self-winding.”

It turned out to be a pleasant surprise; not your typical children’s story by any means.  It manages to portray an unflinchingly honest recognition of the sometimes cruel nature of life without descending into despair or getting to dark.  It mixes an adventure story with wry humor and allegorical and philosophical riffs.  While the basic story of the mouse and his child is a simple and enjoyable one for young people, there is enough depth, complexity, and adult humor to keep the older readers interested.

Continue reading