Title: Bless This Mouse
Author: Lois Lowry
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Audience: Reading level 9 years
Summary: Hildegard, the mouse mistress of the community of mice (219 members) at St. Bartholomew’s, has important responsibilities: counseling mice on the size of their families, leading them in the hymns and prayers from the Book of Common Worship, protecting them from danger, particularly the danger of cats in the sanctuary if the Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis’s feast day is held indoors due to inclement weather. Hildegard knows the church, its staff, and the members, including where Father Murphy stores his gumdrops and his practice of playing an occasional game of solitaire in the afternoon. The safety of her mice in the church depends on the adult members of the church thinking that any mouse they see is the same mouse. When they see three different mice at once it is time to call in A Great X. These literate mice discover, when Father Murphy calls, that exterminator begins with EX, not X. Now Hildegard must lead the community in an Exodus to the outdoors when the exterminator comes and then must train them to avoid poisons and the dreaded glue traps. (Father Murphy’s cards disable the glue traps.) Safely back in the church after the Exodus, the mice now face the danger of cats indoors at the Blessing of the Animal service. As the service progresses, Hildegard feels that it is only right that a mouse should also be blessed and acts accordingly.
Literary elements at work in the story: Lois Lowry, two time Newbery winner, saw a mouse in her room that inspired this story. Anthropomorphic mice bring a different perspective on church life that can enlarge human understanding. The mice have distinct personalities-aggressive Lucretia, wise Ignatius with library experience, foolish Roderick-and recognizable community problems. Rohman’s pencil drawings are appropriately quiet and gentle. The whimsical story is billed for “Reading Level 9 years,” however younger children will enjoy hearing it and so will any adult readers.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? These perspectives are not significant in the lives of church mice.
Theological Conversation Partners: This book is saturated with ecclesiastical language, prayers from the book of common worship, hymns, even a floor plan of St. Bartholomew’s. The church is either Episcopal or Roman Catholic and the book will be a good opportunity for children of another tradition to gain some vocabulary. The only two theological hooks in the book are the idea of sainthood and respect for all animals that God has created. Genesis 1:27-31; Psalm 8:3-9, Psalm 104 give background on the relation of humans to creation. 1 Corinthians 1:1,2 is one of many NT passages where Paul uses the term saints. It differs from the definition given by Ignatius (The library mouse, not the church father.) but the two can profitably be compared.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever taken part in a service of blessing the animals? Where was it held? Why was it held? How is it connected with the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi?
- There may be some new words in this book. See if you know::sacristy, surplice, cincture, chrism, chasuble. What other new words did you wonder about?
- Hildegard saves Lucretia by using chrism. Was this an appropriate use of the holy oil? How was it used that morning in the service?
- What animals did Father Murphy give thanks for during the Blessing service? Should mice have been included?
- Two statements are made about saints: A saint is a person who is especially blessed; Saints take risks for others all the time. What is a saint according to the New Testament. Do you think these two statements are true. Do they contradict Paul’s definition?
- Father Murphy prays “keep us mindful that we are all Thy creation” and “that man and Thy creatures can live in peace with one another.” Can you think of ways that we can respect and treat animals as our fellow creatures?
This review was written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
Filed under: All Ages, Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 1 -3 (Ages 6-8), Faith Questions For...., High School Students, Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary, Younger Elementary | Tagged: Animals, blessing of the animals, church life, creation, saints, vocabulary | Leave a Comment »