Another modern classic novel for older children

The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban

This Pinnochio-esque tale for older children written in 1967 of a clockwork Daddy mouse and his child is a modern children’s classic. Deservedly so, it features a road trip for the discarded and broken wind-up mice full of adventure, peril and featuring a nasty rat-baddy, also much happier episodes where the mice make many new friends; all wrapped up in philosophical musings about the circle of life, friendship and families.

There were many memorable characters; Manny Rat starts out by being a really nasty villain, but gradually is tamed; the crows of the Caws of Art Experimental Theatre Group were mad luvvy actors; but my favourite was the fortune-telling frog, who becomes the child’s uncle. The adventures of the clockwork duo in the wide, wide world, always on the lookout for someone to wind them up again as they travel in their quest to reunite with former wind-up friends and their holy grail of becoming self-winding, will delight younger readers (although some of the aforesaid philosophical musings may slow things down a bit). This novel would also be a brilliant story to read aloud.

Yet as an adult reading it for myself, it left me slightly cold. I’ve read one Hoban adult novel recently and loved it, and my book group has picked his post-apocalyptic cult classic Riddley Walker for next month which I’m looking forward to. The mouse and his child, although the world it depicts is anything but cosy, felt a tad sentimental but also a little self-importantly clever to me. It was certainly an interesting adult read, just not quite my cup of tea. 7/10

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