Reviewed by Tom Weck (Ethiopia 1965–67)
Of Mouse and Magic is an engaging tale of Manny the Mouse, his family, and many other animals including both friends and predators. Manny is the smallest mouse in a new litter of mice. His parents fear for his survival as he seems very fragile. But Manny does not see it that way. He is born with a jagged white fur mark that, in his eyes, makes him feel like Zeus. And he acts accordingly showing both courage and leadership through his and his sibling’s many trials and tribulations.
Admirably, the books does not shy away from addressing ‘survival’ – a daily struggle for these mice as they are hunted by predators on land and from the sky. Young readers will be astonished by how many other animals are trying to make a meal of Manny and his siblings – a snake, a cat, an owl, a fox, a hawk not to mention the deadly ‘mouse trap’ in Farmer Frank’s house and Dal the dog where the object is simply to kill them.
And then there are the friends such as rabbit and the gopher who share the homes and hideouts to protect the Manny and the others from being eaten.
The habits and habitats of all of these animals are presented in detail and in a way that children naturally and easily assimilate into their knowledge base. It is a tutorial on small and farmyard animals, and even adults will learn much from the book.
The book also does not shy away from addressing the topic of death – from Macon who dies of old age to brother George who, after being partially trapped (his tail) in the mousetrap, is ultimately killed by Flora the cat.
Manny is the consummate hero. He saves Rachael the rabbit from the jaws of Dal the dog and later saves Dal from the bear. As a result, Dal becomes his friend and protector. Manny demonstrates again and again that he is clever and fearless. The implicit message here is that you do not have to be the biggest and look the strongest to accomplish great things – a wonderful message for youngster trying to cope with a not always friendly world as they grow up.
One of the most refreshing aspects of Of Mouse and Magic is that Gall does not “write down” to young readers. He uses what I would call ‘adult vocabulary’ to convey the story. This is the right choice as I am a firm believer that children at all ages can understand stories far beyond what many adults think is their limit with respect to both syntax and vocabulary. In addition to being an engaging, fast paced story, Of Mouse and Magic also extends the language learning experience significantly.
Of Mouse and Magic will be enjoyed by young readers.
Review by Thomas Weck (Ethiopia 1965-67) Publisher and CEO of Lima Bear Press, LLC (limabearpress.com)