Baby Book Club: Mouse Tales

Mouse Tales, by Arnold Lobel (who also wrote the Frog and Toad series), is one of the books from my childhood that I sought out (a bit desperately) mid-way through my twenties and bought for myself.

It’s a collection of short stories, delightfully illustrated and good for beginning readers. The stories’ frame is a father telling his young mouse children a series of short tales before they go to sleep. There’s a story about a mouse who takes a long bath and floods his entire town. There’s another one about a mouse who throws pennies into a wishing well only to be met with an “ouch” from the well, who is sensitive. There’s one about a tall mouse and a short mouse that reminds me of my walks with Owen lately, where he is fixated on every ant and pebble and flofleur (he’s short mouse) and I am looking longingly at our destination – the park, or home (I’m tall mouse). I am more adult-like and abstracted than the tall mouse in the story, but I do (like tall mouse) lift Owen up from time to time, so he can smell the apple blossoms or see the sunset.

My favourite story, and the reason I sought the book a decade ago, is called “The Journey.” It’s about a mouse who sets off to visit his mother. It’s a really long way, so in the process the mouse’s car breaks down, then his boots, his sneakers, and finally his feet (there’s more than this, but you get the idea). Conveniently, at the side of the road, there is always a mouse selling a mode of transportation. The last mouse is selling feet. My favourite part of the story is when the mouse arrives at his mother’s house (with a line across his ankles denoting the new feet), and his mother remarks “what nice new feet you have!”

I love that the story swerves across the line between absurd, macabre, and practical. Of course, the traffic of body parts is terrifying (on that note, a nice grown-up counterpart is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go), but haven’t we all had days when we wished there was someone by the side of the road selling new feet?