I can’t think about mice without thinking of Rose Fyleman’s poem in which she states, ‘I think mice are rather nice.’
It’s a poem I’m sure nearly everyone must have learned sometime at school.
While I’m more included to agree with the people Rose says ‘don’t seem to like them much’, they figure in many stories for children and are usually portrayed as cute and adorable.
Even Hush in Possum Magic, one of my favourite Mem Fox picture books, started her journey as a mouse before being editorially transformed into a very cute and very adorable invisible possum.
The three blind mice with their severed tails may not be quite so cute, but really mice are everywhere, as Pussycat confirmed in his report on visiting the Queen.
A familiar tale is that of the pet dog eating the homework. But what if it wasn’t the dog, it was mice instead? Would that be more believable? That’s where I’ve gone in response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you like it.
The Mice Ate My Homework
“What happened to your homework this time?”
“It was mice, Miss.”
“I thought you got rid of the mice.”
“We did. In the house. But I left my bag in the car last night.”
“The car was in the shed.”
“Should’ve been safe there.”
“It would, except —”
“Tommy forgot to let Rusty out.”
“Rusty usually chases the mice away.”
“Dad accidentally left the window down. The mice got in and —”
“They ate your homework?”
“They thought it was tasty, Miss.”
“That’s not a smear of peanut butter there, is it?”
“Definitely not, Miss!”
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
There is the fable about The Lion and the Mouse, the story of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouseand the more recent The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.
As a child, I enjoyed the song Windmill in Old Amsterdam. Perhaps you remember it too?
But I think my favourite mouse story is that of Possum Magic, the classic picture book by Mem Fox. I’m not referring to the picture book itself, but the story of how it came to be.
Mem shares some of the goss on her site. You see, Hush started life as an invisible mouse in an assignment Mem produced as part of a course in children’s literature. She was awarded a high distinction for the story and, over the next five years, sent it off to nine different publishers. Each time the story came back.
While Mem found the rejections disheartening, she was encouraged by family and friends who believed in her story. So, she sent it off again, and the tenth publisher asked her to “cut the story by two thirds, re-write it more lyrically, make it even more Australian and change the mice to a cuddly Australian animal. “
Mem did as requested, changed the mice to possums, and so Possum Magic was born. The book was published in 1983 and remains one of the most popular and best-selling picture books in Australia. (While not mentioned on the site, I seem to remember reading that the book had almost 30 rewrites!)
When I first heard this story of Possum Magic, I was younger than Mem was when the book was published. The story inspired me and encouraged me to hope. I loved Mem’s yet attitude (though I didn’t yet know it as that), her belief in her story, persistence in pursuing its publication and willingness to learn from others. Without those marvellous qualities, Possum Magic may never have seen the light of day. It may have languished in the bottom of a drawer somewhere with other forgotten manuscripts.
How many manuscripts do you need to take out, dust off, and send on their way?
Here’s my little story in response to Charli’s challenge this week. I hope you like it.
A Mouse Backfires
“Eek!“ shrieked Granny, toppling back on the chair, arms and legs flailing.
“Thwunk!” Her head struck the wall, silencing the children’s sniggers.
Granny slumped motionless, eyes closed, tongue lolling from her slack jaw.
Barney gaped. “D’ya, d’ya think she’s dead?”
“Don’t be silly,” admonished Eliza, older and wiser. “She couldn’t be. Could she?”
While ravens and crows may have their differences, as an Australian, I can be forgiven for having difficulty in telling them apart. As this article about the Australian Raven in Birds in Backyards says,
“There are six members of the family Corvidae found in Australia: five native breeding species and one infrequent self-introduction. Three are called crows and three ravens, although there is really little difference. Most Australian species are similar in size and colouration, and can be difficult to tell apart.”
In fact, when I attempted to find photographs of crows and ravens, I found the same photograph labelled ‘crow’ in one location and ‘raven’ in another!
I provide this information only so you’ll understand why I refer to crow rather than the raven of Charli’s prompt.
You see, Charli’s prompt reminded me of this video in which a crow shares its bread with a mouse.
I wondered why the crow would make such an effort to share with a mouse. Don’t crows usually eat mice?
I was reminded, then, of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse in which a lion, surprised at the idea that a mouse might one day be able to help him, forgoes a meal and releases the mouse. The mouse returns the favour one day by freeing the lion when it was ensnared by hunters.
However, in the fable, it was the potential prey who helped the predator in an act of kindness.
In the video, it is the predator showing kindness to potential prey. Finding a motive required some divergent thinking. This is what I came up with as a start.
Crow and Mouse
“Caw, caw,” called Crow in the morning from atop the tree.
“Caw, caw,” called Crow at midday from the neat vegie patch.
“Caw, caw,” called Crow, perched high on a wire, at the end of the day.
“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man in the morning, shaking knobbled fists.
“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man at midday, stamping his feet.
“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man, clattering his pans at the end of the day.
Sneak, sneak went Mouse from his hole in the wall, to the kitchen and back, unnoticed by Man who was noticing Crow.
And so it repeated, day after day.
Until, one day, Man grew tired of shooing Crow and loaded his slingshot with a rock. Mouse, ready to sneak, saw Man take aim. Mouse ran–across the floor and up Man’s leg. Man stumbled. In so doing, he dropped the rock upon his toe. He hollered. Crow heard the commotion and flew away, cawing his thanks to Mouse.
Man saw where Mouse hid. He fetched his hammer, nails and a board.
Just in time, Mouse escaped–down the stairs, through the garden and into the woods. In the darkness, Mouse trembled. All his life, he had filled his belly with three good meals a day from Man’s kitchen. Could he fend for himself? He looked about this unfamiliar world. When the quiet was interrupted by a flap-flap-flap, he ducked for cover.
Too late–he’d been spotted.
“There you are,” cawed Crow, placing a piece of bread on the ground in front of Mouse. “Thank you for your kindness. One good turn always deserves another.”
What do you think?
Stories, stories, everywhere
I had fun writing the story and it reaffirmed for me that potential stories are everywhere, not only for adult writers, but for children too. I think children would love to discuss the video of the crow and the mouse and would ask many more questions and come up with more inventive stories than I did. What a fun writing prompt it would be. Children could also compose dialogue for the animals and act it as a play.
In this article from ABC News, I discovered that clever crows are learning from magpies to swoop in order to protect their nests. It also seems that they never forget a face. Perhaps they are no happier to see bullying than we are.
This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.
Nothing to crow about
Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.
“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.
It didn’t shoo–more came.
Brucie shouted, waving his arms.
The crows shuffled closer.
Brucie thrashed wildly.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.
The crows flew away.
“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.
Brucie nodded, then let the others play.
The crows never returned.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.