The other night I found myself unexpectedly with nothing to read. I hadn’t been paying attention, and when bedtime arrived, I realized that I had finished the book I was reading the night before.
My first plan of action was to ask the Kid to borrow something. The last time I did that, I wound up reading The Fault in Our Stars, and I’m not sorry I did. But Kid had just gone to bed herself and wasn’t in the mood to find me something, and I didn’t want to turn on her light to peruse her shelves.
So I shrugged, went to my own shelf, and pulled out The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this book. The first time was in high school. My brother found it at a used bookstore and brought it with him to a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. We were sharing a house with another family who had a younger child (I think he was around eight at the time) and since Brother recommended the book, my mother decided she’d read it aloud to our young friend.
She read to him on the living room couch in our rental house, which was a big summer house with a great room. Around chapter three, the youngster decided that the book was too violent for him and asked if she’d stop. (Chapter three is about territory, and a lot of animals die, mostly to feed other animals.) But by then, the rest of us were hooked. So mom read the rest of the book aloud to all the adults (and teenagers) in the house.
At the time, my favorite quote was this one:
Each of us, stuck in the mud however deep, must rise by the propulsion of his own thought. –C. Serpentina
But like any book worth reading more than once, different things impress me about The Mouse and His Child with each reading. Certain things have just become a part of my thinking. For example, when I looked at my strawberry patch this afternoon, I commented that we had “a moreness of strawberries” as I began to pick them. This is a reference to the experimental play within the book (a play, incidentally, also written by C. Serpentina.) This time, however, I’m most captured by Muskrat’s much-in-little. The basic premise of this is:
Why times how equals what.
Which is freaking brilliant. Solve for X and you have the answer to any problem you might come across. I think I might add that quote to my list of cross stitch projects, so I can hang it on the wall in my office.
Some books you can just read again and again forever. Sadly, this one is out of print, but if you can find a copy (preferably with the original Lillian Hoban illustrations) you should pick it up. You can learn a lot about the world from a children’s book.