The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

Existentialism for children. But don’t let that turn you off. This is a fabulous children’s story.

The Mouse and His Child is like a modern day fairy tale or quest. The title characters are a wind up toy (and no that is not a grammatical error – Mom – together they are a single toy, attached together). The father and son hold hands and dance around in a circle. That’s what they do until the day they are broken. That’s when their adventures begin. The epigraph at the beginning gives a clue to the nature of the story:

The sense of danger must not disappear:/ The way is certainly both short and steep,/ However gradual it looks from here;/ Look if you like but you will have to leap.  ~ W. H. Auden

This world, interestingly, contains animals both real and not. It’s not for the faint of heart! The mouse and his child set out in a world full of adversity. There is violence in the form of junkyard warlord Manny Rat and shrew wars over territory and natural and animal-made disasters and predators. But the challenges only make the story more beautiful. It is funny and wry and hopeful and redemptive. It is a story about the love between a father and son, a sharp-witted comedy, and a stirring adventure. The book is able to speak to the reader on so many levels.

You will like The Mouse and His Child if you enjoy stories about toys coming to life or mice talking. However, you will also like it if you enjoy stories about  journeys and finding home.


I first read The Mouse and His Child as part of a Children’s Literature course in university. I just fell in love with it. I was astounded this book was not better known; that I hadn’t heard of it before. Later I found the same copy (2001) I had read then in a book store and, of course, bought it. It is illustrated by David Small and the illustrations are… perfect. He won the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for his work. Apparently, it was made into an animated film in the 70s. I tried to watch it but there was so much crazy-saxophone background music, I could hardly focus on what was going on. I really feel like book deserved another kick at the can. l was thinking it would work on stage and low and behold, I discovered that the story was recently adapted for the stage by Royal Shakespeare Company. They read my mind.

Let me know what you think:


One thought on “The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

  1. I’d never even heard of this book. Another really cool recommendation. The illustration you include of the mouse and his child though is really making me sad; wind up toys in general make me a little sad.

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