Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse, by Caralyn Buehner, pictures by Mark Buehner (2015)
This is another one that BoyChild really enjoyed. Part of the fun of this is the built in hidden pictures–but we still haven’t found the cat, T-rex, and rabbit in all of the illustrations! (And I really wish I knew the backstory behind the dedication: “For Mr. Joe, who’s as handsome as a bus and as clever as a tractor”!)
Mr. Mouse hears that there is a spot available for sale under a kitchen stove, so he and his family (a wife and seventeen small mice) move in. As Mr. Mouse is exploring the human house one day, he discovers an evergreen tree covered with lights has been brought in and notices all kinds of new smells and new activities going on. He and his family observe and wonder the reason for all the festivities, so Mouse creeps upstairs and overhears the nativity account and the story of Santa being told. “All that fussing upstairs is for Christmas, and Christmas means joy, and love,” he reports back to his wife. She decides it would be a good idea to decorate and celebrate, too. Mr. Mouse goes around borrowing small items to recreate the decorations he has seen upstairs while Mrs. Mouse makes pajamas for everyone, and they wrap the gifts in scraps of colorful paper. Crumbs of gingerbread and bits of candy cane serve as their treats. Then they gather the whole family for the celebration with games and music, treats and gifts, and a retelling of the Christmas story. They each hang a tiny stocking before bed, just in case. To Mr. Mouse’s surprise, they awaken to find a small gift for each parent and a chocolate chip and a bit of cheese for each little mouse. Mr. and Mrs. Mouse decide that Christmas is worth celebrating every year.
The story is told in rhyming verse (ABCB pattern), but it’s not overly rhythmic, so it doesn’t feel too forced. The illustrations, in addition to the hidden images in each one, feature rich, vibrant colors, and the contents of the Mouse home, in particular, are creatively made using regular household items (much like in The Borrowers, a childhood favorite of mine). Small readers can try to figure out the origins of all the items, from the paperclips and buttons on the sprig tree to the chili powder can they use as a fireplace and the dominoes, Tinker-Toys, and blocks they use as seats for the children. (There’s even the little Scottie dog from a Monopoly game as a table-top decoration and birthday candles used for light!) (In an added twist, I recognized the cover of another Christmas book I’ve reviewed, Christmas Day in the Morning, on the page where the mouse is listening to the humans share Christmas stories–because the illustrator of this book is the one who illustrated that one!)
Even though it’s not heavily emphasized, it’s easy to take the central message of the book and apply it in the lives of our little readers–“Mouse learned that on that night long ago/was born the Lord of the earth,/and the lights and the songs and the giving/were to celebrate His birth.” Great for preschool and early elementary read-alouds.