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The Mouse and His Child (Puffin Books) by…

The Mouse and His Child (Puffin Books) (original 1967; edition 1976)

by Russell Hoban

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6972113,645 (4.25)1 / 37
Title:The Mouse and His Child (Puffin Books)
Authors:Russell Hoban
Info:Puffin Books (1976), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:pb, mooched, mice, juv, line, hoban, illus

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The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban (1967)



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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
saw on display in library & picked up - I'd never heard of it nor read it as a child - I do like the illustrations by Small in this edition... OK - I got to page 58 and am just not getting it. I don't know why; maybe it's because of the kinds of distractions I'm having irl right now, but anyway I'm going to take it back to the library.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
If you think this is "just a children's book," you're mistaken. This book is deep...really, really deep! Read it and read it to your children and grandchildren too!! ( )
  Writermala | Mar 8, 2016 |
After time spent in a toy store and then as a family's Christmas toy, a wind-up mouse and his child end up in a dump. They endure perilous adventures and meet interesting characters along the way, including a fortune-telling frog, crows who run a theater company, a philosophical snapping turtle, and a single-minded muskrat. A good read-aloud although the deep musings will go over children's heads. There are several sudden, predatory deaths of characters, but the story moves on without lingering.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Ostensibly a children's book, it has something for everyone. It's about the transformative power of love and offers us hope in the midst of our existential angst. Depressing, uplifting and unique, this book turned me onto Russell Hoban - discovering one of his books in a used bookstore is an extraordinary treat! ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Russell Hoban is one of those authors I probably haven't given enough of a chance. I've read one book of his I really loved (Amaryllis Night and Day), one I did not get on with at all (The Medusa Frequency), and bits and pieces of a third which, while very, very interesting, would feel more like an intellectual exercise than an entertainment no matter who was writing it (Riddley Walker). Over all of them looms the shadow of The Mouse and His Child, an existentialist children's fantasy that I first encountered as an unforgettably dark and uncompromising cartoon before rediscovering it as an even darker and more uncompromising novel.

Yeah. Yeah.

It's pretty clear to me, at this point, that Hoban must have been an exceptionally smart man, and possessed of an exceptional mind to be able to think up even that handful of stories which - regardless of whether I liked them or not - are all pretty startlingly varied and original pieces of writing. Based on that one fact, you'd think it would be clear that I should read more of his work. Yet as I sat re-reading The Mouse and His Child, it occurred to me that there is an increasingly clear separation in my mind between great writers and great storytellers. For a long time, I've thought that there are many great storytellers - L. Frank Baum, for instance, being a wonderful example within the children's literature genre - who are not particularly great writers. They don't write overly memorable prose and may even have a tin ear for dialogue, but their sheer ability to carry you along in a story renders them able to tell you, sometimes, roughly the same story again and again and again, and you never get bored. Now I'm starting to think that the opposite can be true: there are great writers in the world, commanders of language, theme and style, who are - confoundingly - so smart or so full of a need to communicate an idea that it gets in the way of telling an entertaining story. I say this, specifically, because all the way through The Mouse and His Child I admired Hoban's actual writing. He has a really ingenious way of putting across a fairly sideways point of view in a deceptively straightforward way. There are some incredibly vivid images in the story, both terrifying and beautiful, and the questions Hoban asks of the reader are vivid enough to have stuck with me more than twenty years. There's just one problem.

I did not enjoy reading this book. I really, really did not enjoy reading this book.

A large part of that, admittedly, is the tone. This is, for a large portion of its proceedings, a very grim children's story. It is about suffering, pain, loss of family, pursuit, torture, and sudden death. Perhaps more importantly, the quest for individual identity - "self-winding" - that serves as the book's focus is so startlingly different from other children's literature, so reflective and melancholy, as to actually be haunting. This is heavy, heady stuff. You can tell - palpably - that it is written by someone who fought in war. Sometimes, it just feels relentless.

Some of the novel's eccentricities, though, come off like the favored children of a first-time novelist, and those can just become annoying. I can't for the life of me figure out, for instance, why Hoban stops the story dead for a prolonged satire of Waiting for Godot, or why the Muskrat's peculiar "much-and-little" algebraic equations (cog plus key equals winding!) are drummed quite so hard into the dialogue of the second half of the book. The Last Visible Dog symbolism, while certainly effective, also feels incredibly heavy-handed, especially in the undersea sequence. It's all there to support the existentialist theme - in fact, it's impossible to understand these elements any other way - but in an already very depressing story, that uncomfortable feeling that you are being lectured at by someone who desperately wants you to understand his message is just about enough to make me put the book down and walk away. And I did. Several times.

So where does that leave me with The Mouse and His Child? I'm really not sure. I respect it, and more, I find myself respecting Hoban for his unique vision. I find it a nearly impossible book to recommend, though. Unlike many readers, I wouldn't call it "magical." That's too light, too pleasant, too sweet. I would call it a very original work that also happens to be overwhelmingly sad and wistful. Hoban's world is not a world I want to revisit, probably ever again. I already know it's a world I can't forget. ( )
1 vote saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
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The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from her;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap,

W H Auden
These pages are dedicated
to the memory of three fathers:
A.T Hoban,
Edward Lewis Wallant,
Harvey Cushman, under whose
Christmas tree I first saw
the mouse and his child dance.
February 1967
To Randy, my friend
to Harold, my healer
To Sarah, my soul
September 2001
First words
The tramp was big and squarely built, and he walked with the rolling stride of the long road, his steps too big for the little streets of the little town.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0439098262, Hardcover)

Like so many exceptional children's books, Russell Hoban's The Mouse and His Child clearly wasn't intended only for kid consumption. It certainly qualifies as a fantastic story for children: the characters are entertaining and memorable, the images powerful, the pacing tight, and the message unique and lasting. But this sweet, melancholy fable about a wind-up pair of tin mice--a dancing father and son joined at the hands--explores so many different themes of hope, perseverance, transformation, and the nature of existence (while still managing to be quite funny at times) that it's the sort of book that demands to be kept around for a lifetime of rereading.

The father and son's redemptive quest to become "self-winding" takes them through all sorts of trials, from the toy store to the dump to the swamp and back again, and all along the way the pair runs afoul of Hoban's well-realized and often menacing menagerie of characters, including the slave-driver Manny Rat, the distracted thinker Muskrat, and Crow and Mrs. Crow and their Caws of Art Experimental Theatre Group. (These last provide some of the best scenes in the book, getting a surprising amount of philosophical meat out of a play called The Last Visible Dog: "What doesn't it mean! There's no end to it--it just goes on and on until it means anything and everything, depending on who you are and what your last visible dog is.")

If you're only familiar with Russell Hoban from his Frances books (Bread and Jam for Frances), this gripping, sometimes disturbing, occasionally even violent novel might come as something of a surprise. But if you've read any of Hoban's later work, like Pilgermann or The Moment Under the Moment, then you know what this sophisticated and extraordinarily graceful writer is capable of, and why The Mouse and His Child deserves praise as one of the more profound children's works ever written. (Ages 9 to adult) --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:53 -0400)

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Two discarded toy mice survive perilous adventures in a hostile world before finding security and happiness with old friends and new.

(summary from another edition)

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