One of my favourite, serious Children’s Books is from, The New York Review Children’s Collection~ The MOUSEWIFE by RUMER GODDEN, Pictures by William Pene du Bois, published in 1951. Pene du Bois’ whimsical pen and ink illustrations compliment the beautiful text of friendship and bittersweet love between a Mousewife and a Dove.
This is the hauntingly beautiful tale of a little Mousewife who spends her days gathering crumbs and scampering about her little world attempting to please a rather cranky and unappreciative husband.
“What more do you want?” asked her husband. She did not know what it is she wanted, but she wanted more.”
“I think about cheese,” said her husband.
“Why don’t you think about cheese?”
That is, until an unexpected guest, a Dove arrives. The Dove held captive in a birdcage, wishes to be free to fly once more. While in captivity the Dove captivates the Mousewife with tales of the world outside the window, how it felt free to fly, encouraging her to dream of more, questioning the familiar life she has become accustomed to.
Reluctantly, the brave and compassionate Mousewife finally makes the decision to set her new, dear friend, free from the prison of the birdcage. In doing so she will lose the Dove’s company. Sadly, the Mousewife realizes that they travel in different worlds, and she returns to the everyday, predictable life of a mousewife, with only memories to sustain.
“The mousewife is a very old lady mouse now. Her whiskers are gray and she cannot scamper anymore, even her running is slow. But her great- great –grandchildren, the children of Flannelette and Flannelette’s brothers and sisters, treat her with the utmost respect.”
“She is a little different from them, though she looks the same. I think she knows something they do not.”
This is a beautiful tale of love and if you haven’t read the story, you must.
A note from R.G.~
“This story is taken from one written down in her journal by Dorothy Wordsworth for her brother William, the poet. It was quite true, but her mouse I am sorry to say, did not let the dove out of its cage. I thought mine should, and she did.”