Bless This Mouse

Overview

"Fun and lighthearted." —Publishers Weekly

"With touches of surprise and a satisfyingly predictable resolution, this is a strong choice for both classroom sharing and independent reading." —Booklist

Under the Mouse Mistress Hildegarde’s leadership, a resilient group of church mice save themselves from one danger after another—sometimes by the skin of their tails! Can one ultimate act of bravery during the ...

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Bless This Mouse

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Overview

"Fun and lighthearted." —Publishers Weekly

"With touches of surprise and a satisfyingly predictable resolution, this is a strong choice for both classroom sharing and independent reading." —Booklist

Under the Mouse Mistress Hildegarde’s leadership, a resilient group of church mice save themselves from one danger after another—sometimes by the skin of their tails! Can one ultimate act of bravery during the feast day of St. Francis get Father Murphy to bless these mice and keep them safe forever?

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Editorial Reviews

Pamela Paul
…a winning fable…Bless This Mouse feels like an old-timey classic…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
An endangered community of church mice stars in Lowry's old-fashioned animal fantasy. When the mice of St. Bartholomew's—already fearing the annual Blessing of the Animals that brings an onslaught of cats into their home—learn that too many mouse sightings have prompted kind Father Murphy to call in the dreaded "Great X" (exterminator), their Mouse Mistress, the commanding Hildegarde, plots an exodus to the unknown territory of Outdoors. "Hildegarde had an EX of her own now to plan... a special kind of EX she had learned about from listening to readings from the Bible." "Peopled" with characters no less endearing for being stereotypical—a loudmouthed adolescent, a learned elder, a loyal and somewhat foolish cohort, and a disagreeable contender for Hildegarde's position—the book is an impeccably constructed, good-humored adventure filled with master plans, near disasters, and brave rescues, all gently frightening for readers even younger than the target audience. Lowry (The Birthday Ball) creates a cozy church environment of lenient sextons, disheveled organists, and skittish Altar Guild ladies, from a mouse's point-of-view. Fun and lighthearted. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"This gently Christian piece with Rohmann’s earnest pencil illustrations will please talking-animal fans."—Kirkus

"An impeccably constructed, good-humored adventure filled with master plans, near disasters, and brave rescues, all gently frightening for readers even younger than the target audience. Lowry creates a cozy church environment of lenient sextons, disheveled organists, and skittish Altar Guild ladies, from a mouse's point-of-view. Fun and lighthearted."—Publishers Weekly

"Lowry gilds her story with quaint details, extended in Rohmann’s charming spot and full-page illustrations, which reinforce the comedy and action and further develop the memorable characters. With touches of surprise and a satisfyingly predictable resolution, this is a strong choice for both classroom sharing and independent reading."—Booklist

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Hildegarde, the Mistress of Mice, and her colony of church mice have been living at Saint Bartholomew's as long as they can remember. They cleverly keep out of sight managing only to be seen one at a time so as not to excite the Altar Guild ladies or Father Murphy. One day, just before the annual Blessing of the Animals, three mice are spotted by the ladies, resulting in lots of screaming and the priest calling for the exterminator. With the coming of the feared Great X, the mice must come up with a plan. Thanks to Ignatius, who once lived in a university and is quite learned, an ingenious plan is devised to outsmart the Great X. Of course it means that the mice will relocate, temporarily, to the outside. That move brings with it all sorts of new dangers. To add to the excitement the mice are hoping to be back inside and well hidden before the day of the blessing, for it will bring another complication. Cats! This story moves along briskly with well-drawn out drama, touches of humor, and endearing mice each with a unique personality. Rohmann's sketches of these clever mice and the excitable church ladies add plenty of heart to this heartwarming story. Pair it with Dick King-Smith's The School Mouse (Disney-Hyperion, 2009) about another mouse family in crisis. This would make a great read aloud. Libraries should buy multiples... it will be popular. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—The colony of mice living in the recesses of St. Bartholomew's Church is facing two threats: the Great X, periodically called upon when humans suspect rodents; and the ubiquitous presence of cats when rain brings the annual Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis indoors. Failed attempts to foil Father Murphy's plan to summon the exterminator force Mouse Mistress Hildegarde to lead all 219 church mice on a dangerous excursion Outdoors and into the nearby cemetery. From there, with the help of mouse colleagues Roderick and Ignatious, she dispatches a team that successfully disengages the sticky traps set by the Great X. With this challenge behind them, the mice must now steer clear of the cats during the Blessing ceremony. But Hildegarde cannot resist participating to receive a blessing on behalf of all of the mice, and, in a triumphant conclusion to the story, she marches in the procession, astonishing Father Murphy and inexplicably setting all the cats to purring as organ music swells. While some of the ecclesiastical references are a bit oblique and sure to be enigmatic to the intended audience, this transitional novel is likely to be enjoyed by future readers of Avi's "Poppy" sequence (HarperCollins). Pen-and-ink illustrations, many full-page, enhance the story, and an overhead diagram of the church elucidates some of the terminology in the text.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544439368
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/7/2015
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 551,465
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at www.loislowry.com.

Eric Rohmann was born in Riverside, Illinois in 1957. He grew up in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago. Eric won a Caldecott Honor Book award for Time Flies, and a Caldecott Medal award for My Friend Rabbit., and has written four children's books: My Friend Rabbit, The Cinder-Eyed Cats, Pumpkinhead, and A Kitten's Tale. Visit his website at www.ericrohmann.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 A Bad Time for Babies

Hildegarde sighed, a loud, squeaking, outraged sort of sigh, when she was informed that a new litter of mouselets had been born in the sexton’s closet. Such bad timing! Such bad placement!

She scurried from the sacristy, the private room where Father Murphy’s special priestly clothes were stored. She’d been napping there comfortably, until Roderick, whiskers twitching, woke her with the news. Oh, he was a busybody, no question! Always looking for a reaction. Well, he got one this time! She was furious.

Checking carefully to be certain there were no humans around (sometimes the Altar Guild ladies dropped in during the afternoons to rearrange flowers), Hildegarde tiptoed quickly into the large, high-ceilinged church itself, through the side section known as the transept, and entered the central area called the nave. Audaciously she hurried down the center aisle, ready at any instant to disappear into a pew and under a kneeler if someone entered. But the sanctuary was empty and quiet and she made her way, undisturbed, down its length.

Next she found herself in the narthex. Hildegarde so liked the formal names for the parts of the church. If she were in an ordinary house, she thought, twitching her nose at the idea, this would be known as the front hall. What an ordinary name! Narthex had a ring to it. You knew you were in an important place when you entered a narthex!

There was a tiny opening here, beside the front door, where the floor had settled slightly. Through the opening Hildegarde could enter the wall. The church mice all used this as an entry or exit because stairs

were a problem for them. It was easier to ascend or descend inside the wall, where there were tangled wires and frayed insulation to cling to. Carefully, she scurried downward.

Now, having made her way below, she was in the interior wall of the undercroft. Since Hildegarde had lived in Saint Bartholemew’s all her life she knew the route by heart, especially where to scramble over the copper pipes and how to avoid the places where drifting insulation made her sneeze. There were many exits here in the undercroft: one, she recalled, amused as she passed it, into the nursery, a noisy place on Sunday mornings and best avoided. Babies in general were best avoided. They spent time on the floor, could see into crevices, and had graspy hands.

But at least babies couldn’t talk, and report a mouse sighting! The group to be most feared, Hildegard thought, was the Altar Guild. More than one of the ladies had actually shrieked upon happening on a mouse. Oh, dear. Always an uproar when that happened. (Men seemed to be more sensible about such things.)

Finally, after passing countless Sunday School rooms and making her way carefully around the complicated piping of the bathrooms, Hildegarde arrived at the entrance, a small gnawed hole, to the sexton’s closet. She winced when the ragged hole edge grabbed her sleek coat, but wriggled through; then, emerging on the other side within the closet itself, she fastidiously pulled her long, elegant tail through in one swoop.

There they were, curled in a nest made from a pile of the sexton’s cleaning rags: at least seven of them, it appeared, and bright pink, a color Hildegarde had always disliked. Annoyed, she looked around. She knew the mother would be nearby. No self-respecting mouse mother would leave infants this young alone. So someone was hiding.

"Show yourself!" Hildegarde commanded. She didn’t use her commanding voice terribly often, even though she was the matriarch, the chosen Mouse Mistress, and therefore entitled. But she was angry, and ner-vous. The timing of this was so unfortunate.

The mouse mother responded with a timid squeak, peeping out from between the ropy tangles of a moldy-smelling mop.

"I knew it would be you! I just knew it!" Hildegarde said.

"Who told?" squeaked the mouse, guiltily. She made her way over toward the litter, which was beginning to whimper and wiggle at the sound of her voice. She nudged them back into a tidy pile with her nose and then lay down beside the babies, looking up at Hildegarde.

"I simply guessed. It was obvious," Hildegarde said with a sniff. Of course it was Roderick who had told her. "That trashy little Millicent has reproduced again," he had announced in his arrogant, judgmental way, after he had poked Hildegarde with his nose and completely ruined her afternoon nap.

She peered down at the young mother. "How many litters does this make?"

Millicent cringed in embarrassment. "Four," she confessed.

"Four this year? Or four overall?" Hildegarde gave an exasperated sniff. "Oh, never mind. It doesn’t matter. The point is, as mouse mistress, I am commanding you to stop this incessant reproduction! It’s jeopardizing all of us. And particularly now. Do you realize it’s late September?"

Millicent rearranged herself and the mouselets squirmed against her. "Do you mean it will be cold soon? I can make a nest near a heating duct when the furnace comes on."

"That is not at all what I mean. But you are going to have to move this litter someplace else right away. I don’t think the sexton’s here today. But he’ll be in k7 k tomorrow, I’m sure. And the instant he reaches for his cleaning rags . . ."

Millicent squeaked at the thought.

"Exactly," Hildegarde went on. "Basically, the sexton is fairly tolerant. He’ll ignore a few droppings. And I know he overlooked the shredding in his stack of newspapers, though he surely knew it was a nest. That was kind of him. But if he were to encounter . . . this!" She gestured toward the pile of pink mouselets. "Well! Do you recall the Great X?"

Millicent cringed. "I’ve only heard about it," she said nervously.

"No, of course you don’t remember. The last Great X was before you were born. But it was simply terrible. We lost half our population! I vowed not to let it happen again. No more haphazard, willy-nilly reproduction! Careful placement! No visibility!" She looked meaningfully at the litter, sleeping now, curled in the stained rags. "We’ve got to get you and these mouselets moved inside the wall right away."

She considered the problem, then said, "There’s k8 k a perfectly good nest left empty after Zachariah’s demise." She was silent for a moment, then crossed herself, murmured, "Lord rest his soul," and continued: "It’s in the wall behind the men’s room toilet. A little noisy, I’m afraid, because of flushing."

"I don’t mind flushing," Millicent squeaked.

"Let’s get started, then. If you take one and I take another, we can get them all moved in three or four trips." Hildegarde leaned down and took a deep breath. "Oh," she muttered, "this is not pleasant at all." Then she grasped a mouselet by its neck and moved back through the hole into the wall, carrying it carefully, its miniature legs and tail dangling in a slightly wiggly way.

Preparing to come after her, Millicent paused and said in a sulky voice, "Lucretia thinks they’re cute."

Hildegarde heard her but didn’t dignify the comment with a response. She couldn’t stand Lucretia, who had competed against her for the role of Mouse Mistress using unfair tactics, and had been a very poor sport about losing.

She continued on, carrying the mouselet. But now she was even more furious. Lucretia! Her rival. Her worst enemy. And a liar, too. Cute? These mouselets were a hideous shade of pink, and their ribs showed. They were not cute at all.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

A Bad Time for Babies! 1
Praying for Protection 10
Hildegarde Holds a Meeting 21
Hiding from Father Murphy 32
A Nighttime Raid 45
The Great X 60
Yikes! Outdoors! 71
Ignatious Explains the Horrors 83
Brave Volunteers Needed! 94
One Mouse is Missing! 106
Poor Lucretia! 120
The Blessing of the Animals 137

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